We enter an open landscape, rich in impressions, and then leave the beaten track. Here and there we notice something that merits closer inspection. After a shorter or longer pause, we venture a little in another direction. We might simply take the day as it comes and without concern let everything that has been and that we have experienced go to the winds. Or perhaps perceive the singular aspects shown by this landscape with an acute awareness. Use them to recall past events and experiences, thus enriching the feeling of simply being in the present moment.
When we listen to Markus Eichenberger’s solo improvisations Half time, we feel that he is taking
us along with him on such a journey of discovery. A journey into the day’s events, but no less a
foray into a landscape of memory. The intimate wealth of sounds produced by his instrument, the clarinet, evokes the most diverse associations. For Eichenberger, it is not the instrument of a virtuoso who wends effortlessly through all the meanderings of Alpine folklore, classical music
and swing. He almost has us perceive the oscillating column of air in his instrument with an astounding clarity. He gives himself time to listen precisely to every tone, as it were from various acoustic angles, in all its colour and fullness of register. He swells the spaciousness of a sound, lets acoustically complex events arise, illumines each tone in several distinct ways, at times sings softly along.
We hear melodies, with simple intervals, whereupon memories arise spontaneously: of nature
or meditative experiences, or melodies engraved deeply in our collective cultural memory. Only
a few sounds, and the entire tradition of the instrument resonates along: classical, jazz – but not
least also Alpine folklore. Indeed, the longer that we penetrate into Eichenberger’s improvisations by listening, the more do we have the feeling of being present at a solemn act of memory. In a completely contemporary spirit, the clarinettist brings forth melodies of the most diverse origin that have so far accompanied him in his life. And they are completely integrated in today’s world, in his eminently individual, singing, corporeal tone language. Only rarely do they really feel like a citation, such as when elements of Albert Ayler’s Ghosts suddenly appear in rare dynamically highlighted moments. Or when the German folk song Thoughts are free surges boldly into the foreground.
Otherwise, Markus Eichenberger treats such «culturally-loaded» melodic material in a refined and differentiated way. He turns the idea of memory into a sensual experience. Sidney Bechet’s
Petite fleur may be heard, but from a context that now has little in common with the origin of this wonderful melody. In the same way, fragments seem to emerge from their secret hiding-places, of Béla Bartók or Charlie Haden, from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s A-major clarinet concerto, the familiar Swiss nursery rhyme Chumm, mir wei ga Chrieseli gwünne, Willow Weep For Me, and Anton Webern’s Goethe songs Opus 19. They appear almost imperceptibly, blend with the present moment, and suddenly the passage of time becomes apparent to the senses, as we move into the future with alert ears and a wakeful mind.