DYGONG – The E·Sessions

Question: When is a group not a group?
Answer: Don’t ask DYGONG.

– CD Liner Notes

The CD arrived in an unassuming package, along with other CDs to review. I couldn’t help but to pick this out of the stack and begin listening. Perhaps it was the odd-looking cover. Perhaps the even more bizarre photographs on the inside and equally odd liner notes. Or maybe it was that DYGONG was first described to me as “a musical UFO.” I wanted to hear what this group had to offer with their debut CD, but it was not music that greeted me with the first track.

Dygong - Photo by Lars Svankjaer

Dygong - Photo by Lars Svankjaer

They all agree with each other — about some things — about some things to do with music. Or about art. Or maybe politics.

– CD Liner Notes

Established in 2004, DYGONG describes itself as a concert production group, and consists of four members: Christian Winther Christensen, Regin PetersenNicolai Worsaae, and Simon Løffler. All four members were trained at the Royal Danish Academy of Music, and together they have produced concerts of their music and the music of others across Europe. These concerts often combine multiple artistic disciplines, perhaps bordering on performance art, so making a CD seems almost an anathema.

Nicolai: What is your dream with DYGONG?
Christian: My dream is to conquer Russia.

Rapid, spontaneous interviews between members of DYGONG.

I’m listening to an animal sound, which presumably is that of a Dugong. Then there is the soothing radio voice of Tin Hinman, who, like an excellent nature documentarian, is relaying to me important information about this creature. I don’t know why I’m listening to information about the Dugong, but I’m interested. There is background noise. Instruments? Perhaps a percussionist could better answer that question. Now I get to hear the members of DYGONG introduce themselves and answer questions which are not heard. This is working. It’s clear that I’m getting a glimpse into the inner workings of this group, but nothing is explicitly stated—just snippets of conversation, phrases repeated through editing for emphasis.

I prefer not to think too much about it.

– Introduction

The CD is divided between five tracks of Dugong/DYGONG documentary (introduction and four interludes) and five tracks of music, with each composer represented at least once. If there is any one thing that really makes this CD work it is the documentary aspect. A CD is a great way to experience music, provided that you don’t mind editors, mastering experts, art designers, packaging suppliers, production companies, distributors, retailers, and shipping enterprises coming between you and the music. This was the problem that DYGONG had to overcome, because DYGONG is about being there. DYGONG is about the experience, and a CD of their music alone would have most likely been a failure. However, these documentary-like tracks, which rightly come between each composition, bring the listener right into the studio (and coastal waters). There is a narrative arc that is created not by the music but by these tracks, which in their own way introduce each piece of music. This isn’t a CD in the normal sense. This is an opportunity to hear music being made.

 You can play notes that isn’t [sic] there, if you want to.

– Interlude 3

Dygong - The E-sessions

Dygong - The E-sessions

Sound. Organized sound, I’m assuming. Yes, certainly organized. An aircraft engine revving up? Passionate, very good singing. I wish I had a translation. Ah percussionists. The world is but a collection of instruments. Is that a motive? (break) I do enjoy all those other sounds a piano makes. Usually only pianists get to hear them. Singing bowls or crystal glasses? I always did have trouble distinguishing the two. Maybe neither. (break) I wonder what this piano piece sounds like when not electronically manipulated in post production. I bet it’s lots of fun to play. I should listen to more Cecil Tayler. (break) Have I heard a saxophone before now? Such beautiful tone. (And I don’t care much for saxophones normally.) Wait, is this sound being manipulated in post as well? Is it manipulation or just addition? The latter I think, but when was it added? That is the question. So interesting to be listening to melody now. What else do I hear? (break) So soft. How can she sing so softly? This is crazy. Not the piece, the technique. How hard is that? It’s so sad. So beautiful.

This is good. Bravo.

DYGONG. The E-Sessions (ILK records,  ILK185CD) December 2011 – Buy on Amazon – More info on http://www.dygong.dk

Did I mention that the documentary bits about the Dugong are direct quotes from the wikipedia article of the same title?

R. Andrew Lee is an avid performer of minimalist and postminimalist piano music and records for Irritable Hedgehog Music. Follow him on twitter: @andyleedma.