New CD Dudok with Joey Roukens: What Remains

The Dudok Quartet’s latest album, What Remains, is a musical journey through time and place that showcases its unique approach to music-making. With a mix of old and new repertoire spanning almost a thousand years, the album seeks to find the deepest meaning in each piece of music and offer a fresh perspective on each work. The Quartet has travelled into the depths of musical time to examine ancient scores by Pérotin, de Machaut and Gesualdo and found their echoes in modern works by Messiaen, Reich and Joey Roukens, who wrote the eponymous quartet of the album.

What Remains was commissioned by the String Quartet Biennale Amsterdam for the Dudok Quartet which premiered the two-movement work in 2020. The piece opens and unfolds like a landscape and embarks on a motoric, post- minimalist musical journey that is both propulsive and pulsating, while the second movement is more contemplative with traces of polyphonic early music. In his composing process Roukens purposefully removed melodic and motivic elements until only its texture, pulsing and overlapping triads, slowly melting harmonies or obsessively repetitive single notes remained. Every piece of music gathered here on this recording contains fragments that can be linked to this 21st-century string quartet.

The ghosts of musical past are found in the oldest notated polyphonic music, Viderunt Omnes by Perotinus Magnus. Musical time then marches on to the Ars Nova style of Guillaume de Machaut’s Kyrie from the Messe de Nostre Dame and to the mid 16th century with Carlo Gesualdo’s five-part madrigals. The Dudoks’ profound study of these works, through making their own transcriptions, undeniably qualifies them to describe the distantly related but crystal-clear tonalities as “a cross-temporal fibre optic between the different eras”.

With its collection of speech samples, train sounds and the layering of three different pre-recorded string quartet recordings, Steve Reich’s Different Trains is a personal and emotional work that conveys time, place and mood and was composed for the pioneering Kronos Quartet. Inspiration came from his own early childhood train journeys across the US continent between 1939 and 1942 to visit his divorced parents living in New York and LA, and then his later realisation in adulthood that European Jews had been making very different kinds of train journeys in these same years. The big picture for this ‘music documentary’ traverses time and place; the music and samples in the first two movements deal with the same period twice but on different continents, while the last movement is at once a retrospective as well as a hopeful glimpse into the future. Although the pre-recorded tapes made by the Kronos Quartet are available to quartets for live performance and recording, the Dudoks chose to make their own recordings of all 16 parts for this album, not only as a way of plumbing the depths of this powerful work, but also to have their own backing tapes for live performances.

Olivier Messiaen’s Oraison is from the suite Fête des belles eaux that embraced themes of immortality and eternity and was originally written in 1937 for the haunting, oscillating sounds of the Ondes Martenot. The composer reworked it for cello and piano as the central movement of his Quartet for the End of Time during his internment as a prisoner of war in WWII. The Dudok Quartet chose to rearrange this piece as the concluding music for the album because of the static, mystical impression of infinity it evokes and the obsessive restraint with which Messiaen works – a thread that leads straight to the contemporary music by Roukens.

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New CD Dudok with Joey Roukens: What Remains on Spotify

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Published 1 year ago

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