Lying down with Stax phones 1.

Walt Mundkowsky

[January 2014.]


Sergei ZAGNY: The North (12 parts for soprano blockflute, 2002). Perf. by the composer. FancyMusic FANCY028 (

“‘The North’ was finished and I was listening to this recording
before falling asleep, already in bed, lying on my back
and wearing headphones.”
Sergei Zagny, October 4th, 2013

“Already in bed, lying on my back and wearing headphones” is my standard listening mode, hence my interest.

Zagny (b. 1960, Moscow) has described The North as “music for breathing normalization / 2011-2013.” He wrote and recorded it in 2002, so the claim of therapeutic value arrives well after the fact. To me it’s simply music; your mileage may vary.

Not overstaying (34:17) and rather slippery, it proves engaging. The tension between almost-unison and imbalance is a major force. Textures constantly thicken or thin out; what seems static on the surface is actually in flux. One may expect a multi-tracked blockflute array to resemble an organ placed on simmer, and Zagny’s experience as organist intensifies it. Some shuddering figures in the more active middle third (10 to 21 mins.) suggest the chuffing of organ pipes, and the piled-up lines also get louder. Procedures in the first and last sections mirror each other somewhat. Zagny is skilled, not least for keeping out of the way in the finely calibrated dissonances and not quite in-sync traffic. (He also makes me want to hear the Amsterdam Loeki Stardust Quartet’s The Art of FugueChannel Classics CCS 12698.)

Execution and sound are adequate to enforce the concept.

* * *


Bryston BCD-1 player (2008)
Nordost Tyr interconnects (2007)
Stax SRA-12S amp (1977, restored)
Stax SR-5N headphones (1982).
(All discontinued.)

FULL DISCLOSURE: I wrote US ads for Stax, 1988-95, but the pieces I use here predate that involvement.

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