In Free Fall
Berlin composer Maya Shenfeld’s music is as powerfully evocative as it is strikingly intimate.
Through a mastery of sound sculpting and visionary approach to composition Shenfeld has established herself as one of the most vital voices in Berlin’s New Music scene. Her work exists in liminal spaces, collapsing the boundaries between electronic synthesis and organic sound as it draws equally from classical tradition and underground experimentalism. Each aspect of her output, from site-specific sound installations to works for new music ensembles and even playing guitar in punk bands, combines an astute technical prowess with an authentic, tangible expression of soul. Shenfeld’s debut solo record In Free Fall merges the grand vision of orchestral music with the granularity and intimacy of deep listening, exploring a tension between immaculately structured compositional architecture and the sheer joy of noise, grain and feedback. In Free Fall, named after Hito Steyerl’s essay, captures Shenfeld’s own feelings of “free fall” both with regards to the current moment, and to her growth as a composer. Trained as a classical guitarist, Shenfeld’s relocation to Berlin to study composition sparked a drastic expansion of her horizons and practice. Diving headfirst into the city’s punk and experimental music scenes, the composer found herself shuttling, literally and figuratively, between disparate musical worlds; from the grand Konzerthaus Berlin to hole-in-the-wall Indie venues. In Free Fall reconciles Shenfeld’s classical training with her uncompromising spirit, resulting in beautiful iridescent constellations of sound. The physical nature of sound is central to Shenfeld’s work. She elaborates: “music can seemingly stretch, bend, and even break time, its ability to touch something in you, emotionally, and the fact that it’s a resolutely physical experience.” From tracks that collapse the boundaries between organic and digital instruments, where tape loops and sine wave inseparable from live brass from Kelly O’Donohue to a collaboration with James Ginzburg (Emptyset) taking Shenfeld’s commission for Bethanien Youth Choir, recorded at an abandoned 1902 swimming pool and manipulated into expansive ambient atmospheres. In Free Fall’s use of space and dynamics captures the distinctly three-dimensional nature of Shenfeld’s live performances and sonic installations. In Free Fall is a decisive statement from a crucial new voice in contemporary music, challenging traditional structures and narratives.Returning to the essay that gives the album its name, Steyerl’s description of “free fall” equally speaks to the wonderful sensation and innovation of Shenfeld’s music: “The horizon quivers in a maze of collapsing lines and you may lose any sense of above and below, of before and after, of yourself and your boundaries. [...] with the loss of horizon also comes the departure of a stable paradigm of orientation, which has situated concepts of subject and object, of time and space, throughout modernity. In falling, the lines of the horizon shatter, twirl around, and superimpose.”
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