I'm used to Rune Grammofon releasing challenging and sometimes even downright frustrating music, but even I was unprepared for this debut release by Ole-Henrik Moe. Ciaccona / 3 Persephone Perceptions is a double disc release of music for solo violin, and it's extreme to say the least. Performed by Moe's wife Kari Rønnekleiv, the two pieces of music will likely be downright frightening to most listeners. Moe is no newcomer to challenging music and has been composing and improvising music for dance and theatre productions for some time now. He studied under Iannis Xenakis for some time, and has teamed up with Rune Grammofon artists like Deathprod, The White Birch, and Nils Økland.
"Ciaccona" was written as a connection to the aforementioned Xenakis' death, and rather than taking a peaceful route it's one of the most unsettling pieces of music that I've heard in recent memory. The fourteen-part piece is broken into numerous smaller sections that all focus in directly on the placement of the bow on the instrument and reveal microscopic textural details that more melodic work often leaves out. In addition, one can hear the breathing of Rønnekleiv, especially during passages that are particularly taxing (although some would argue that listening to any of the piece is certainly draining). While there are some changes in the piece in terms of pacing and dynamics, it's largely an endurance test of nearly forty-five minutes, both for the player and the listener.
"3 Persephone Perceptions" is inspired by memories of Moe's childhood, and instead of going nostalgic, it's yet another uncompromising piece of music that takes place over 3 sections and almost forty minutes. While the piece progresses with an almost Morton Feldman-esque sense of space and decay, it's barely more forgiving, as long, almost inaudible parts give way to more screeching and scraping of the instrument. The middle section (which plays out for over twenty minutes) is particularly relentless, with Rønnekleiv sawing away nearly the entire time while varying the bow placement in subtle ways and adjusting volume from blistering to near-silence. Although I certainly commend Moe's exploration of magnification on the instrument and the micro-gradations of how it's played, I honestly can't imagine myself ever wanting to hear this piece of music again. This one is only for the brave, to say the least.