This is a blog devoted to music on the edge - experimental, underground, alternative, subversive, or just plain weird - new music that tries new things, or old music that broke old rules. It's a place to discuss ideas, share discoveries, to think about what makes music interesting and challenging but still good to listen to. Join in and have your say!!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Rhythm driving melody - Beethoven, grindcore and PIVIXKI

PIVIXKI is unfortunately a relatively unknown duo of musicians, from Melbourne, who do some incredible things with a piano and a set of drums. Comprising avant-garde classical pianist Anthony Pateras and grindcore drummer Max Kohane, they have a pretty small recorded output - a self-titled EP and, more recently, a full-length album Gravissima - and seem, as far as I can gather, to perform a bit, but not a lot, in public. It's a shame that they don't get heard more often and more widely because what they do with music has captivated audiences ever since Beethoven started doing it at the start of the 19th century.

When you listen to Beethoven's Appassionata Sonata, which he composed in 1804 and 1805, you might not recognise with today's ears how outrageous something like that must have sounded back then - the way he uses dense, pounding chords with such force and power, especially throughout its first movement and in the final moments of the last, so that the piano becomes almost more of a percussion instrument than something lyrical and melodic.

But it's not just about beat - it's about rhythm, too: about the way the beat grows into something that has a shape, a structure, a story, so that the narrative of the music seems to be told there first, with melody providing the embellishment.

The primacy of the beat in music is something that we find in a lot of modern music - especially, and most obviously, in some of the frantic and ferocious bashings and smashings of metal, industrial and grindcore. It can be awesomely commanding stuff and the fact that it might make you want to bang your head against something very, very hard and harmful is surely only testament to its power.

But it's less common for us to see rhythm in the driving-seat; complex rhythms, central to the music's drama - as it was for Beethoven in that massive, ground-breaking sonata - and it probably wasn't until Pateras and Koehne decided to bring together the innovation of the classical avant-garde and the frenetic belly-fire of grindcore that we could ever have expected it to have again come off so spectacularly as it does here in the music of PIVIXKI.

Pateras bashes the extreme ends of the piano's register with fists and palms, and races his fingers over the keyboard, in music that has one foot firmly planted in the wild and daring domain of composers like Messiaen and Xenakis, while the other foot stomps and stamps in perfect sync with Koehne's grindcore drum-kit.

Most of the music is muderously, mercilessly, fast. It has the energy and spontonaeity of free jazz and yet, in its chaos and its sense of improvisation, there's a discipline, of sorts, there too.

It's music that stops you in your tracks, makes you go "wow", and then leaves you thinking, in the way it melds so much together, spanning centuries and genres and techniques, how closely knit even the most diverse music can be.

No comments:

Post a Comment