The Contest of Pleasures

Teater Lederman, Stockholm - by Lars Jönsson.

The Contest of Pleasures

Axel Dörner / Xavier Charles / John Butcher

The trio formed, at the suggestion of Xavier Charles, to play at the 1999 Musique Action in Vandoeuvrve, and has since played throughout Europe, at FIMAV in Quebec and at HCMF, UK.

Two special projects have extended the group’s acoustic sound. Microphone/diffusion research at GMEA, Albi with Laurent Sassi and, with Jean Pallandre also added, a project in Ulrichsberg mixing local field recordings into live performance.

Fimav, Victoriaville, Quebec - 19 May 2001
There are always genuinely controversial performances at Victo, those that can galvanize and divide the most sympathetic audience. For this listener, the year's highest point came with one such performance, the improvising horn trio The Contest of Pleasures. It was a concert that will continue to evolve in memory. An all-acoustic trio in a sea of electronics, the group is unlike any wind group I've heard, eschewing the usual runs and echoing exchanges for a concentrated focus on sustained sounds, not merely tones.

Through the years, Butcher has developed a highly original style in which overtones, circular breathing, and sounds of oscillator-like purity combine in a meditative music that bears a striking resemblance to electronic music. In this trio he is playing with two other horn players whose musical conceptions are extraordinarily close to his own. In fact Charles and Dörner may be even more specifically electronic in their vocabularies, and the collective music is so pure it creates iliusions. Charles managed to create a crackling, hissing sound on clarinet that for long stretches resembled the high-level surface noise of the turntablists. Dörner passed air through his trumpet while clicking a mute against the bell to create a sound that perfectly mimicked the clicking of a saxophone's key pads. Sometimes the closest thing to a conventional timbre was the sound of a flute issuing from Butcher's tenor.
CODA - Stuart Broomer.

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