Mica Levi – BOUND. 9 Minuets (World Première)

Mica Levi - BOUND. 9 Minuets (World Première)

Today’s work in the 5:4 Advent Calendar is a typically leftfield piece by British musician Mica Levi. Levi’s music encompasses the deep and the trivial, the profound and the nonsensical, sometimes simultaneously. Their work BOUND. 9 Minuets, for two small snare drums & ensemble, tends more towards the latter than the former, yet there’s something intriguing and strangely entertaining about its ostensibly empty actions.

But first, the rules, of which there are two sets, one for the pair of snare drummers, one for the ensemble:

That would appear to be that, except that it’s clearly not the full story. Played verbatim, this wouldn’t last very long at all, but judging by its first performance at the 2020 Donauschinger Musiktage, the rules are to be followed repeatedly, giving a duration of just over eight minutes.

Apropos: in the festival’s programme book the piece was listed as having a duration of nine minutes; i can’t help wondering whether the second half of the title, 9 Minuets, is a mischievously misspelled reference to that intended duration, as there’s most definitely no aural sign of any minuets whatsoever or indeed nine of anything else. It’s entirely possible that the snare drummers each perform the phone number nine times, but impossible to tell as they both play pretty much constantly throughout the piece. As for the ensemble, depending on your perspective they do their thing anywhere from 19 to 27 times; the uncertainty arises from the fact that several of the arpeggio bursts (~3:15, ~5:09 and ~7:08) don’t sound isolated but appear to be stopping and restarting multiple times. That perceived sense of a longer, halting continuity is reinforced in the final burst (~7:08) due to the fact that, for no apparent reason, the clarinettist plays the melody for ‘God Save the King’. Regarding the first part of the title, BOUND., this could simply refer to the obvious fact that the players are bound to follow these rules without deviation (except for that rascally clarinet).

So many questions, yet the more time i’ve spent with BOUND. 9 Minuets the more i’ve come to the conclusion that it’s most definitely not a piece remotely intended to provide answers. And in case you’re wondering, i rang the phone number – and it went to voicemail; i left a message, but so far i haven’t heard back…

The world première of BOUND. 9 Minuets was performed by members of the SWR Symphony Orchestra conducted by Titus Engel.