Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Frank Expressionism

Not exactly a household name is H. K. Gruber, but please don't let that put you off (as if...).

I first encountered this 'piece' many years ago, encouraged to listen by one of those 'this'll really blow your mind' types.

I must admit he came close; but there was a little extra added assistance to my appreciation; which has always made me wonder as to how weird it really was.

So I was well-chuffed recently as BBC's Radio 3 broadcast the 'piece' live; narrated and performed by Gruber himself.
Now I could find out whether my tripped-out perception of the 'piece' was for real or merely reliant upon accessories.

It wasn't.
It isn't.

Frankenstein!! (1978) is the Austrian composer's 'Pandemonium', his own little monster mash-up in sound; and it lives: 'IT'S ALIVE!'.

All manner of creatures, and their creators, are conjured up, many instantly recognizable, all of them in their own way diabolical: all of them monsters.

The narrative is created by Gruber's spitting out, in a most sinister, and slightly lascivious manner, mutant styled nursery rhymes, which I must say seem to have the touch of ergot running through them; something dark; otherworldly; like Grimm's Tales: somehow of the forest; primeval; frightening.

As well as the narration Gruber plays double bass, all manner of percussion and bizarre instruments: his favourite being children's versions of instruments; although he plays a wonderful solo on what I think is a comb and paper, although it could be a carefully constrained kazoo.

But watch out for all manner of whistles, shouts, explosions, bangs, cracks and pops; accompanied throughout by a full orchestrated score; supplied in this instant perfectly by the BBC Philharmonic and the Manchester Chamber Choir.

So think 200 Motels x4.
Kurt Weill on acid.
And you're somewhere in the right area.

It's a hodge-podge, a musical cut-up, surreal, macabre, alternative, funny, surprising and challenging; but challenging only in the way that it doesn't necessarily conform to our expectations of what a 'piece of music' should be.
In fact, if it's allowed to merely be, it's incredibly entertaining.

Okay, okay.
It's not for everyone.
But I've never watched The Sound of Music.
And you know what.
I have no fucking intention to.

H. K. Gruber - Frankenstein!!

Performed by H.K. Gruber ('Nali'): voice, double bass, percussion and various sound making implements and paraphernalia,
The BBC Philharmonic Orchestra,
& The Manchester Chamber Choir.

Recorded at The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, 22/10/10.
Immaculate Rip from DVD captured digital broadcast @320kbs.
30 minutes, includes info.
Give life to the creature here

I have included Radio 3's intro and outro to the performance; they're very informative and do create a sense of meaning, some anchorage in which to hang on to while you're trying to make sense of the piece.

But I do encourage you to take the plunge.
See what you make of it.
Listen to the intro and outro afterwards; compare notes, so to speak....
Anyway, hope you enjoy.
And if you're at all hesitant... go for it: after all, what's five minutes of bandwidth?
And hey. Listen with the lights out...


. said...

Well, you certainly wouldn't see this anywhere else! I'm a coward when it comes to anything edgy or challenging, but okay, I'm up for this - *gulp*.

(That still from Frankenstein shows the beginning of a sequence that was originally cut - not sure if it's restored now - showing the monster throwing the little girl into the lake, like she was throwing the petals. You knew that. Just showing off.)

roy rocket said...

Is that just after they've played together on the see-saw, or am I getting a little muddled here?

Hope you gave the Gruber a listen; be interested in what you think of it...

. said...

I liked it. I listened all the way through. It's a one-off, isn't it? My only problem was with making out what he was saying - at times ze Mad Scientist Cherman vas incomprehensible to me.

(Got any Bing Crosby? I really recommend Fancy Meeting You Here, with Rosemary Clooney.)

roy rocket said...

Glad you gave it a go.
Gruber's vocal gesticulations can be rather hyperbolic; kind of a Dali, Lugosi, Clunk blend.
Adds to it I think; the strangeness of the language: his monstrous use of it.

A Bingless zone here I'm afraid.
I'm sure you could find some on 'Pirate Bay' (pah!).

I've got some Hughie Green...
but I think I'm gonna save that one.
Regards, roy

roy rocket said...

Link Lives!