Chaz Underriner

Nieuw Noten reviews

Music blog Nieuwe Noten wrote reviews of the performances of both Nocturne Series: 8 and Landscape Series: 1. The text is in Dutch, but a translation (by Nico Couck) is available here:

“During a short talk on stage, Chaz Underriner – one of the Gaudeamus Award nominees – is worried about Irma. Probably one of the heaviest hurricanes ever to hit the Caribbeans, which pretty much wiped St. Martin, St.-Barthélemy, Barbuda, and Anguilla of the map, and which is making its way to Florida, where Underriner currently lives. The Gaudeamus Muziekweek is not taking place at the best possible time for this composer. Hopefully the damage will be limited so that he can still enjoy the festival.

Certainly nothing wrong with his “Nocturne Series: 8”, dedicated to the Kluster 5 ensemble. Everything was in place, just like in the other pieces by Ivan Vukosavljevic and Sky Macklay. The The Hague-based Kluster 5 is this year’s ensemble-in-residence for whom all of the five nominees composed music. In practice, they wrote for violin, saxophone, guitar, piano and percussion. In “Nocturne Series: 8” Underriner combines contrasting musical words, similar as to what he does in other works. First there are the field recordings he made himself. In this case of the in 2012 dried Blanco riverbeds in Wimberley, Texas – together with recordings of the highway as he was driving on them himself. He combines these sounds with written parts for the different instruments. All in all, it becomes a penetrant, somewhat surrealistic composition, in which melancholy takes an important position, and in which the listener is invited to create its own mental pictures to the music.” (first two paragraphs)


“On Friday night a lot of attention has been given to the Gaudeaumus Award nominees again. One of the highlights here – of the entire festival, as far as we are concerned – is the complete performance of Chaz Underriner’s “Landscape Series: 1” by Ensemble Modelo62. Underriner is lucky, the piece fits Modelo62 – with the Amsterdam Trombone Quartet as guests – like a glove. They delivered a fascinating and intense performance of this richly saturated composition.

Underriner seems to be the type of composer who is specifically interested in providing immersive experiences for the listener. Originating from his own experiences, he is providing highly diversified material that consciously guides the listener’s involvement in a minimal fashion. The first layer – the most prominent one – is that of the video. Often filmed by means of a camera positioned behind the car’s front window. Sometimes this is very explicit: we can see the road bathing in the sunlight, and sometimes this is more diffused: only shimmering spots on the road caused by the headlights in the dark. The second layer is the sound caused by driving the car, and the third layer is the audio tape Underriner made and which is made up from nature sounds from the countryside, an electronically produced drone – and finally, there is the fourth layer made up from live performed music, and which often also has a drone-like, almost a passing nature. Underriner combines these layers in an unexpected, non-obvious, and often unpredictable fashion. The only constant in the piece is that there are no means of action in the piece, no clear story. It is much more about the atmosphere and the means of expression. And Underriner takes an abundant amount of time for this. From this perspective, his music often reminds to that of Morton Feldman. Not in the musical sense, though, Underriner uses a completely different language, it is more in the sense of time. And just like Feldman, Underriner is capable of enchanting the listener so that time loses its function, so that you are completely subordinated to your dreams.

And as mentioned, the musicians are to be praised for sublimely shaping the stilled sounds in this piece. Sounds that bring forth subtlety and fragility with the greatest nuance. Like the endlessly sounding clarinets, and the trombones of which the timbres subtly change – and that sound from high up in the church. Combined with the completely suiting visuals and field recordings, a wonderful world is created.” (first three paragraphs)