ComposerDonald Bousted
ArtistAndreas Böhlen
LabelNew Music (MP006)
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Picture of An astonishing CD from virtuoso German recorder player Andreas Böhlen.  Music by Peter Eötvôs, Maki Ishi, Stuart Saunders, Donald Bousted and Wolfram Graf.

Back in 1998, right on the inside edge of the millennial fold, a biographical note accompanying the CD release of Donald Bousted's A Journey Among Travellers for unaccompanied recorders expressed the composer's belief that the instrument would become 'a major protagonist in the music of the 21st Century'. The pieces gathered together on Airborne go a long way towards bearing out this prediction. Its presence makes each of them seem timeless. Even the earliest work here demonstrates by its boldness how little the intervening decades seem to matter in the life of the recorder. The future of music clearly remains unthinkable without it.

The instrument seems never to have left its own childhood behind. It consequently retains a vigorous sense of the past. With fingering considerably more innocent than that enjoyed by some of the other orchestral woodwind, the recorder is traditionally associated with idyllic rural scenes and junior school assemblies. Look beyond these unaffected connections, and a darker prehistory starts to make itself known. Among its distant ancestors are the flutes carved from old bones to produce some of the first human music, establishing an otherworldly connection between the living breath of the player and departed spirits of the dead, transforming them both into forces of nature. Even today the recorder has the power to remind us that the world of sound remains a mysterious and primitive one; traces of it can still be found in the atavistic thrust of Bousted's Rachel's Dance Track and the suspended trills and respirations of Maki Ishii's

Like its prehistoric forebears, the recorder remains a column of breath. The sounds it produces do not simply take the form of musical notes or words but fill space the way only music and voices can. Caught somewhere between breathing and speaking, Donald Bousted's Les Multiphoniques for recorder and tape reaches back to the rhythmic singsong of our earliest communications. Deep at the roaring heart of Peter Eötvös' Music for New York, this inarticulate shaping of the air is crowded round by raw electronic tones and sparse percussion to evoke a primal environment now becoming estranged from itself. Bringing the past, the present and the future together, Andreas Böhlen's playing allows the recorder to blend in easily with the more modern instruments to be heard on Airborne, such as the xylophone on Stuart Saunders Smith's Strays or the plunging marimba and violin of Wolfram Graf's Existenz. Capable of generating the perfect human sine wave, the recorder continues to be haunted in the way that only the most transparent of things can be, summoning up memories and dreams.

Ken Holling

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