Review: Stefan Goldmann – “The Grand Hemiola” – Macro Records

Is musical geniality and musicality in general genetically conditioned? I’m not going into this scientific discussion here, how interesting it may seem. But when considering the evolution of Stefan Goldmann’s output, the question inevitably comes up. Son of composer of modern classical music and of electroacoustic pieces Friedrich Goldmann, who was revered in the DDR and taught at the university of Berlin, Stefan was immersed in classical music and later went on to study music himself. Next to the great dance tracks he has released on labels such as Perlon, Classic Music Company and Macro – which he runs himself together with Finn Johannsen -, he also published electroacoustic experiments as well as highly conceptual outings.

Take for instance his seemingly absurd reworking of Igor Stravinsky‘s “Le Sacre Du Printemps”. With this tour-de-force, Goldmann paid homage to one of his musical heroes. Moreover, “Le Sacre…” is a wonderful piece of dance music, one might even say techno avant-la-lettre since it was written for a ballet play and strongly emphasised the rhythmical elements in a manner that hardly anyone did around 1913. But apart from that, Goldmann also tackled some issues concerning the mindless editing of already existing tracks in today’s dance scene with his edit of “Le Sacre…”. Furthermore it is a small lesson in hearing the differences in the recordings of classical music which are for instance related to the available technology at the time of each version, to background noises in the studio or to interpretations of the conductor. Lastly, one might also view Goldmann’s effort as a way to put his finger on the matter of musical copyright: Stravinski’s heirs forbid anyone to make variations on the piece, but Goldmann cleverly avoided doing just that with his edit.

The thing that is so admirable with this sort of conceptually heavy tracks, is the fact that Goldmann invariably succeeds in making them sound as, well, simply good music. The same goes for this new double 12inch “The Grand Hemiola” which consists of six tracks and 144 loops; 66 in 4/4 at 33 RPM and 78 in 3/4 at 45 RPM. “Now what is that all about?” I hear you wonder. The whole package is just an exercise in polyrhythm: two (or more) independent rhythms played simultaneously. This idea has been used for ages in the most diverse styles of music, for instance in lots of African music, in medieval and baroque European music (Des Prez, Brahms, Händel, …) and so on.

In contemporary dance the 4/4 rhythm is predominant for obvious reasons, but Goldmann thought – correctly – that there are so many other possibilities which are explored too little. So the Berlin-based producer gave it a try, even to the extent that the piece “Double Hendecagon” is built on an 11/8 beat. All six tracks on this ‘album’ contain a percussion pattern that is rather awkward but they never fail. Goldmann fills up the music with eery sounds that come into play marvellously. Truly haunting at some instances!

Moreover, for the title track Goldmann used fragments of music of his father. Later this year, he will bring out some unpublished pieces from his dad on Macro and the respectful use of it in his own material really is a beautiful tribute. In the aforementioned “The Grand Hemiola”, Goldmann has put a hemiola underneath a concerto piece that is almost Mahleresque in its drama and grandeur. A hemiola, by the way, is a shift of the accent in a metrical system, most often in triple time, articulated as if it were dupal time. This is why it is often said to be antimetrical. If this reads as something very abstract, just listen to this wonderful track which illustrates it perfectly.

Apart from these tracks, you’ll also get the loops. With those, you can start building your own polyrhythms by playing them together on two decks. Once you get into it, you can make a large amount of variations. It’s a most enjoyable way to break out of the 4/4 beat pattern and perhaps to learn more about music and rhythms. I totally recommend every (future) dj to try it out! And obviously I totally recommend this double 12inch to everyone else too.

Stefan Goldmann – “The Grand Hemiola” will be out on March 28th

Track list:
1. Mining The Vein
2. The Grand Hemiola
3. Double Hendecagon
66 Loops in 4/4 @ 33rpm
4. Goat’s Guts
5. Megi’s Waltz
6. Away From The Flock
78 Loops in 3/4 @ 45 rpm

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