June 26, 2019
Tempe Jetz - Magda Mayas & Jim Denley
Label: Relative Pitch Records
Catalog #: RPR1061
Country: United States
Release Date: August, 2017
Multi-unit housing of urban centers possesses important advantages over the single-family dwellings that dominate suburban areas. Multi-unit housing is intrinsically more environmentally friendly, in part because the surface to volume ratio is lower, reducing heat loss and commensurately the green-house gas emissions required for climate control. Multi-unit housing also has disadvantages, prominently including the transmission of sound through the walls, floor and ceiling. Sometimes, these sounds are unavoidable--the thumping of footsteps, resounding from the ceiling, of the upstairs neighbor pacing across his floor, or the high-pitched frequency of the crying baby penetrating the wall that separates one apartment from another. Other sounds are altogether controllable, at least by the occupants of the unit generating the noise. Here we recall the thumping bass of a stereo system cranked to high volume in the apartment directly below, typically well past midnight. We begin this review with what may seem to some at first an irrelevant observation regarding the variations in modern life because the music of the duet, Tempe Jetz realized by Magda Mayas and Jim Denley brings to mind sounds over which the listener has limited control and which invade the ear without any special intention of accommodating the listener's preferences!
Magda Mayas (b. 1979 in Münster, Germany) is acknowledged as playing the prepared piano, although on Tempe Jetz she performs upon a clavinet (which to the uninitiated bears no relationship to the clarinet, despite the difference of only a single consonant). To the contrary, the clavinet is an "electrically amplified clavichord that was invented by Ernst Zacharias and manufactured by the Hohner company of Trossingen, West Germany from 1964 to the early 1980s." For those new to the music of Ms. Mayas, she "explores textural, linear sound collage, and has developed a set of techniques that draw on the history of prepared and inside piano vocabulary, but are highly individualized and expand the language for internal piano music making."*
On Tempe Jetz, Jim Denley (b. 1957, Bulli, Australia) is credited with performing on the alto saxophone and bass flute. He has, over a lifetime, demonstrated a commitment to collaborative musical improvisation, including, for example, participation in Derek Bailey's Company program in 1990. Over the course of these collaborations, he too has developed a set of idiosyncratic extended-playing techniques that convey his own musical sense of esthetics and his individual approach to teasing music from woodwind instruments.
Returning to our original point, we try to imagine the characteristics of neighbors in an apartment complex, who could compromise our privacy with the non-idiomatic music of the clavinet and woodwind. Oh, to be sure, we would be fond of such a pair, although we might be reticent to express our fondness. It might be too much to suggest that we would welcome their arrival with a home-baked apple pie, but it does not fall beyond the realm of possibilities that we should listen at night with our ear to the wall separating the two apartments in an attempt to discern in the interaction of the keyboard and the reverberations induced by the reed and fipple just what this pair imagined was important in a life devoted to the expression of ideas, which are, more or less by design, relegated to intimate audiences. It is, we suppose, no virtue to eavesdrop. Here, with the commercial availability of this recording, we are fortunately saved from engaging in vice and are invited to participate in a personal listening experience, conveying a message that is, as far as we know, not available elsewhere.