REVISIO: Philip Corner | Chord / Gong! (With Carles Santos)

Clearly there are several fundamental differences between electronic or acoustic instrumentation. One aspect that’s always intrigued us is that sense of momentum that’s easy to embellish in an amplified setting. Plug your guitar through a host of pedals and hit the strings, the tiniest gesture can grow and evolve in a host of almost endless possibilities with little effort.

But that act with anything acoustic, performs a simpler and completely natural arc of something similar. The actual physicality, the recesses or voids within the instrument, the quality of its build, the way the microphone is placed to pick up the sound and the shape and characteristics of the space being playing in. All of these factors give a unique backdrop to the keys, strings or apertures being activated by human fingers, toes and breath… Rarefied notes released into in the air, momentarily, depending on all sorts of real time factors, depart quickly or slowly back to nothing.

This zooming in on the genetic under-wiring of sound is somewhere that the work of Philip Corner always transports to. There is always a warmth, and undeniable beauty that beams out his work, that may on paper, feel like little more than academic studies down some branch of minimalism. Chord/Gong! (with Carles Santos) is a sumptuous re-issue of an album originally released in 1987 on cassette of a performance from 1978.

Chord: B Major / B Minor 9 is a just short of half an hour, four handed exploration of the piano where Corner and Santos explore the infinite overlaps, imperfections, peaks and troughs of the instrument. An odyssey in rippling compatible fragments as the both players eeke out a universe of possibilities from a tiny fixed palette.

The overall effect is like composed raindrops as the intensity and the pace ebbs and flows. Whilst the music clearly exists within a strategy, the sound washes over you with a deeply human improvisatory gorgeousness.

The other piece included here is the 21-minute arc of Gong! (Transcription For Low Strings) which, as the title outlines, feels like a reconstruction or reimagining of percussion via keys. Here the piano feels murky and embalmed, the sounds are cavernous more than precise, perfectly enmeshing with an oddly exhilarating onion skin of surface noise.

Chord/Gong! (with Carles Santos) is an album that gathers two huge explorations of the piano and frankly makes most other music seem totally overloaded. In the short time we’ve been listening, it’s been almost impossible to puncture its achingly beautiful bubble with anything else.

Like an earlier collection EXTREEMIZMS early & late, also on Unseen Worlds, Corner has an uncanny gift for extracting way more than it would seem imaginable or even reasonable to expect from so little.

Music made from the very DNA of music.


Chord/Gong! (with Carles Santos) is released on 24 July. Pre-order the limited vinyl edition or digital here.

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