|The liner notes for Barry Guy's extended composition/improvisation Folio (a printer's term for a piece of paper folded in half to create four pages) refer extensively to Nikolai Evreinov's 1912 play The Theatre of the Soul, in which three aspects of the soul are introduced by a pretentious professor who claims the Self as Trinity: Rational, Emotional, and Eternal (or subconscious). Performed a scant five years before the Russian Revolution and simultaneously as Freud's big exposition of the Id, the Ego, and the Superego, the play is one of those moments where history seems to be suggesting bits and pieces of itself.
What that all has to with Guy's piece is ponderous at best and known only to Guy. Even Brian Lynch's liner essay is speculative and academic. Guy suggests that since the piece called for two solo violinists -- Maya Homburger (on baroque violin ) and Muriel Cantoreggi -- and an improvising double bassist (Guy), the three characteristics revealed about the soul in the play seemed to suggest a parallel -- though even he claims he was in a dream sequence reading the play and later sketched it out in drawings.
Also present is the Munich String Orchestra conducted by Christoph Poppen. Guy also claims that Diego Ortiz's "Recercada Primera" (1553) "left strong aural impressions." OK. The set opens with a solo double bass improvisation, which leads immediately into "Ortiz I," both prelude and postlude, that clocks in at 21-and-a-half minutes. Then the next work, "Folio Five I," is preceded by another double bass improvisation. (These episodic improvisations, whether solo or for violins or baroque violin and double bass, hinge all five parts of "Folio Five" together.)
The album is concluded on "Ortiz II." This music is utterly amorphous; there are strains of early music that pop through the mostly extreme postmodern. It's all extremely tightly controlled as well, from Manfred Eicher's trademark production to the music itself. There are moments that are angular, evocative of movement, and others which are nearly still. Yes, the sound is nothing short of immaculate but what would one expect of ECM?
The bottom line is Folio is a confounding work that feels like is has no context even within itself for a few spins and then, slowly, quietly, begins to suggest a kind of cohesion between lyric, space, and the unexpected.
Guy's inspiration came from Nikolai Evreinov's THE THEATRE OF THE SOUL....Stunning.