Thomas Lehn













Frédéric Blondy / Thomas Lehn

Frédéric Blondy • piano
Thomas Lehn • analogue synthesizer


Fréderic Blondy and Thomas Lehn gave their first performance during the festival Fruits de Mhere in France in summer 2001. Since then, they have been frequently working together as a duo. One major characteristic of their performance and music is a cross-effecting realtime sound processing by routing the piano audio signal into the analogue synthesiser's external input. The piano sounds are manipulated by the analogue synthesiser's modules (filters, reverberation, ringmodulation etc.). But simultaneously the incoming piano sounds are used as audio and control signals that interefere with and effect the synthesiser's sound synthesis.


released 2008 on British label Another Timbre


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Frédéric Blondy / Thomas Lehn CD obdo

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Horsky Park is the title of the rather fine new album by Thomas Lehn and Tiziana Bertoncini, one of yet another new batch of discs on the seemingly infatigueable Another Timbre label. Lehn’s music I know very well, his work on analogue synth is, in my opinion unrivalled. Bertoncini however, an Italian violinist is a new name to me, though about of googling around informs me that she has been working in various ways with Lehn for almost a decade now. This is the fortieth AT release ‘proper’, but Lehn also appeared on one my favourites from the label, the Obdo duo with Frédéric Blondy. This one follows hot on the heels, but, as we might expect from Lehn, who is one of the most versatile and yet still consistent improvisers working today, this CD is quite different.

There are two tracks, an opening piece named Galverna that lasts half an hour and is a straight improv recording, and then Moss Agate, clocking in at thirteen minutes and apparently recorded during a “dance-installation-media festival” in Germany, the two musicians performed in separate “open containers” that faced each other, with Bertoncini’s sounds fed into an input on Lehn’s synth, and as other events took place in other nearby “containers” so some external sounds creep in. The CD begins quietly and cautiously, but quite soon the amplified violin can be heard confidently thrusting sounds at us, rasping bow strokes and firm, almost violent sounding wrenches across the strings. Around and between these attacks Lehn very cleverly drops a wide variety of sounds, from soft purrs and whines to sudden aggressive splashes and one or two thoroughly angry explosions. The violin reminds me of Luigi Nono’s composition so often, in places I hear Fragmente-Stille’s tormented struggles with language present, but it is probably the sense of harsh, vibrant musicality that pushes me that way the most, reminding me often of Nono’s more troubled, upsetting music.

Galaverna is a work of some power. It isn’t clear if the recording was made in front of an audience or not, but if it was then anyone in attendance probably witnessed something quite spectacular as the music here really bursts from the stereo with real urgency, and live this would have been amplified further. Lehn is excellent on this first track. His range, and also his choices in what sounds to choose and when is so impressive. Violin wrenches will fill the foreground for a few seconds, but when they cut away they invariably leave a synth sound completely at aesthetic odds with the bowed sound, a deliberate ploy to push the music into more uncharted territory perhaps, and often in this recording there are moments when Lehn’s sounds will suddenly rise from behind something and take you completely by surprise. Galaverna isn’t quiet music, the sounds we hear literally burst from the speakers but it also sounds controlled enough and responsive enough to make the amount of consideration given to each sound one of its strongest points.

Moss Agate is quite different. If Galaverna sounds aggressively forthright and energetic then the second track seems to tone much of this down, shifting to small pops and crashes, mostly from Bertoncini with Lehn laying a seemingly harmless and faintly watery composition down behind the violin. This piece is a nice counterpoint to the opening track, but it also has a slightly more spacious feel to it as sounds bounce about and reflect from one of the ‘containers’ to another. This element doesn’t always work for me and isn’t an improvement over the straight improv of the opening track, primarily because it feels like some of the raw edge of the music has been flattened a little, but its a small quibble when everything else is so addictively listenable here.

Horsky Park is an intense affair. Both musicians push at each other, challenging either with the sheer force and surprise of a sound or often the complete reverse. The interplay between the duo is both fascinating and engaging however and listening to this CD it was these elements, the tussles, the surprises, the understanding of how it all fits together on a mutual level that kept bringing me back. If Horsky Park were a book, someone would have written somewhere that it just couldn’t be put down before its ending. Really great stuff, my favourite improvised album of this year so far.”

Richard Pinnell | The Watchful Ear


Tiziana Bertoncini is a young violinist specializing in contemporary art music, improvisation and interdisciplinary events, whose musical activity is still poorly documented on disc. Thomas Lehn needs no introduction in my opinion, his projects and collaborations within the European and American improvised music scenes are as well-known as his rudimentary ‘old school’ approach to music. There are practically two different musical worlds meeting on this disc: a young Italian artiste and an old German geek German (or extraterrestrial being, I still have my doubts).

A surprising and intriguing encounter, then, which manages to overcome and integrate these two different worlds, creating a new one which is equally rich and creative.  On Horsky Park interest resides primarily in the concept of equilibrium: intensities, timbres, silence, analogue and acoustic, microtonality and tonality.  There are countless alternations, numerous pauses, sensational eruptions, and various intentions and energies. Alternately or simultaneously, the violin becomes harsh, aggressive, serious, light, brital, sensitive, silent or noisy, and Thomas Lehn has to balance these different modes of playing with interruptions that are sometimes uncouth or dirty, sometimes pure and synthetic, decorative, rhythmic or melodic and so on, unless I have inverted everything.  The balance is very well managed between synthesiser and violin, which oppose and confront each other whilst in the process of  becoming assimilated (sometimes with a certain apprehension).

The strange fact, however, is that the element that gives this duo its strength is also what constitutes its weakness, especially on the first piece Galaverna.  I’ll explain:  as soon as Lehn and Bertoncini achieve a balance, they do little with it; it’s constantly being broken, fractured and interrupted in the search for a new dynamic – which is sometimes frustrating and often removes the intensity of each moment of equilibrium. But seen from an overall perspective, this game of multiple short dynamics and intensities forms a sort of rhythmic energy which reinvigorates and gives a kind of consistency to the improvisations.  Moreover, this multiplicity of dynamic interruptions is hugely reinforced by the extreme diversity of the two instruments and two musicians:  Lehn with his unique timbre and energy (like an extraterrestrial on acid playing Pacman), and the idioms of composed music and the sonic research of Bertoncini, together create a singular and original universe, which is both new and refreshing.

Each came equipped with their instrumental baggage, and past music, with their research and its findings, and Horsky Park manages to preserve all of these histories while creating from them something new that arises from their encounter, a third universe in which connections which may seem improbable can be interwoven without difficulty.  Two pieces which are rich in sonorities and dynamics, focusing on an interaction that is marked by urgency and spontaneous reactions; two pieces full of desire and vitality.”

Julien Heraud | Improv-Sphere


As becomes quickly apparent, Italian violinist Tiziana Bertoncini is classically trained.  Her pool of gestural contours are rooted in string practices that date back centuries, which makes her capacity for reverse-engineering the technical knowhow engrained inside her fingers and muscular memory all the more refreshing – technique throwing her violin to the lions, not exploited to replicate the music she already knows how to play.  The last thing needed in this context would be a second layer of instrumental pyrotechnics.  MIMEO and Konk Pack keyboardist Thomas Lehn sticks to his analogue synthesiser and about ten minutes into the half-hour opening piece “Galaverna”, the duo confront that stylistic elephant in the room: the structure snaps as Bertoncini's figurations chance on some explicitly neo-Baroque arpeggios and Lehn reboots the momentum with voluble, purring glissando shapes.  But I wouldn't want to give the impression that Horsky Park is only about stylistic disjoints.  In fact Bertoncini sounds happiest when manipulating her technical dexterity to make the violin unstable – messing with transitory, flaky notes in the unpredictable upper register and scooping sound-masses from her violin's midriff by pressing the bow down 'too' hard.  Lehn responds with sounds that are purposefully synthetic and nothing to do with the instrumental grain: not so much a duo of instruments, as of traditions and cultures honestly played out.   

Philip Clark | The Wire


What first stands out about Horsky Park is how stellar both Tiziana Bertoncini's and Thomas Lehn's playing is. Their performances on violin and analog synthesizer, respectively, are so notable that each could stand alone as a solo affair. Yet on Horsky Park, the listener is confronted by a duo, a setting wherein virtuosity is neither necessary nor necessarily admissible. Despite the pitfalls that individuality presents in group improvisation, Horsky Park in whole is as laudable as Bertoncini's and Lehn's 'solo' contributions, if not more.

Recorded at Festival Pulsi, Triennale Bovisa last July ("galaverna") and the festival Art Ort in 2006 ("moss agate"), Horsky Park is the documentation of two sonically and technically distinct pieces that are nonetheless thematically akin. In both "galaverna" and "moss agate," Bertoncini's violin asserts an aural leading role, often evolving in directions that allude to composed/notated idioms. With Bertoncini's direction, Lehn's synthesizer frequently interjects in a reactionary role, engaging in call-response motifs and direct re-appropriation of Bertoncini's sounds. But contrary to the subservient possibilities of this dominance, there is a balance between the two instruments that suggests a heftier engagement on Lehn's part than intimated by an aural glance. Indeed, Lehn's manipulations in "moss agate" provide much of the separation between the two sets.

The chronological first track "moss agate" is characterized by Lehn's reinterpretation of Bertoncini's violin, hijacking the audio signal from the violin, "rout[ing it] into the synthesizer's external input to achieve a cross-effecting realtime sound processing." Lehn's technique is used to great effect, generating an eerie cyclic structure that perfectly complements Bertoncini's percussive approach and the festival ambiance captured in the recording.

Contrasted by the Lachenmann-esque plucking of "moss agate," Bertoncini's playing on "galaverna" employs longer durations and melodic contours. Still stylistically indebted to notated music, Bertoncini's playing instead resembles Berio's Sequenza VIII, a refreshing departure from the sorts of string playing often found in improvised music. Supporting and subverting these violin manifolds is Lehn, who, while often dormant, deftly prods with his synthesizer. Sometimes inserting near humorous tonality, sometimes bursting with violent shouts, Lehn's instrument is rich in character on "galaverna."

But it's the equal-tempered fullness of their instruments that equilibrates Horsky Park, allowing two big personalities to co-habitate. And, as marvelous as each performance is, what might be most striking about this album is the duo's commensurate coexistence in sets four years apart, both temporally and aurally.

Matthew Horne | Tiny Mix Tapes


Tiziana Bertoncini is a violinist with an education in classical music followed by an immersion in improvisation and multi-disciplinary sound art. Thomas Lehn is a piano student and sound engineer turned analogue synth specialist. Given their backgrounds, the music on Horsky Park is unsurprisingly cerebral, but it is never never drily academic. Their well established working relationship is documented in the pair of recordings bought together here, from Heidelberg in 2006 and Milan in 2010.

In the earlier, lengthier exchange, Lehn at first restricts his lines to a narrow sonic palette of raw electrical output illuminated by intermittent flourishes, occasionally producing a richly vibrant sound something like a harpsichord. Bertoncini decorates these surges and ripples of gritty electricity with some abrasive gestures from the classical violinist’s repertoire. In a later passage these roles are reversed, the violin resorting to high, scraped notes as the synthesizer takes off in a series of rapid, airy flutters. The performance is illuminated throughout by dramatic gestures sparingly deployed. In a particularly arresting moment from the end game Lehn emits a light electronic spray like brushed drums. The later recording comes from an event held at an art fair, at which the duo played suspended in opposing metal containers, with Bertoncini’s violin fed directly into Lehn’s synthesizer. Noise from simultaneous performances in other containers intrude into their music. While this may sound, on paper, an insufferably pretentious setup, the recording doesn’t suffer from it. The continuous background oscillation of Lehn’s synthesizer foregrounds Bertoncini’s dry pizzicato while what I assume to be sonic bleed from noises off provides an unexpectedly apposite rhythmic backing; Bertoncini and Lehn work the room and enter into the unique spirit of the event. Bertoncini’s playing subsequently becomes more aggressive, allowing Lehn the freedom for more irruptive gestures. But the piece settles again before the end, with subtly rounded synth tones and Bertoncini’s bowing creating a dense, swarming effect.”

Tim Owen | The Jazz Man


I wonder if Tiziana Bertoncini (violin) is the daughter of Mario Bertonincini, the pianist who plays modern classical music. Here she teams up with Thomas Lehn (analogue synthesizer), in two recordings. The first is from 2006 and the second is from 2010. The latter has some complex linking together of the violin output to the synthesizer. It lasts thirteen minutes, while the 'unprocessed' one is about thirty minutes. Two entirely different instruments of course, with totally different techniques to play them, tonal qualities and it is curious to hear them together. I must admit this really works well. Especially in the long piece 'Galaverna' there is some great tension going on between the bursting electronic/electric connections of Lehn and the intense playing of Bertonincini. Bouncing in all directions, soft versus loud, noise versus traditional classical approach, its all passing with seemingly great ease.

Frans de Waard | Vital Weekly


Echappés de l’ensemble]h[iatus : au violon, Tiziana Bertoncini. Au synthétiseur analogique, Thomas Lehn. Trouvés en Horsky Park.

C'est un endroit aménagé en deux temps. Honneur ā la pičce la plus récente : Galaverna, enregistrée ā Milan l’année derničre, agence délicatesses et frénésies vindicatives. L’archet frémit sous les insistances analogiques avant de surprendre Lehn par sa faculté de réaction franche et męme d’indépendance.

Sur Moss Agate, pičce qui date de 2006, les cordes sont cette fois pincées. Bertoncini se fait plus discrčte en conséquence, mais s’essaye ā des gestes parallčles pour coller ā l’atmosphčre d'angoisses que Lehn développe sur deux tons. A force, les cordes s’agacent, insistent ā leur tour puis découpent des notes qui seront transformées en machines.

Ainsi Tiziana Bertoncini a, auprčs de Thomas Lehn, perdu en devenir ce qu’elle a gagné en indépendance. L’exposition des deux tableaux qui attestent cette évolution est heureuse et manifeste.

Guillaume Belhomme | Le Son du Grisli


Tiziana Bertoncini, Geigerin im Niemandsland der Comprovisation, und Thomas Lehn, umtriebiger Hansdampf am Analogsynthesizer, kennen sich aus dem ensemble]h[iatus. Seit 2002 spielen sich auch im Duo zusammen. Horsky Park (at40) besteht zum größeren Teil aus 'galaverna' ('Raureif'). Entgegen dem krampfhaften Eskapismus des klassischen Eiapopeia, wird da Vivaldi so in die Gegenwart gebeamt, wie es eigentlich normal wäre. Biedermeierei, die ja, gut futuristisch, die Schönheit aufheulender Autos durchaus genießt, mag das, als ob man 100% Gegenwart nicht ertragen könnte, als unschön abtun. Unsereins freut sich gerade am Reiz des Diskrepanten, am Kannibalisieren dessen, das ewig unveränderlich konserviert sein soll. Die beraureifte Geige, die einerseits bewusst das Wintergezitter aus den Vier Jahreszeiten anklingen lässt, andererseits aber fast gegen ihre Bestimmung als toughe Zeitgenossin ungeahnte Krallen ausfährt, und die Lehnsche Knatter- und Zwitscherbox sind zwangsläufig ein seltsames Pärchen. Aber statt dem alten 'Die Schöne und das Biest' inszenieren sie ein modernistisches Spiel – 'Das Biest und der Geist in der Maschine'. Das wird noch deutlicher bei 'moss agate'. Entstanden als Performance vis-a-vis in zwei Con­tainern, wurde dabei der Geigenklang auch in Real-Time-Proccessing zerklang­wolft. Dabei hat Bertoncini bereits allen romantischen und harmonischen Muff abgestreift. Sprödes Pizzikato, schrille Striche, sportliche Bogenschläge ver­wandeln die schnörkelige Geige in eine kakophone Klangmaschine, ein Intona­rumori. Statt Canaletto Russolo. Lehn interagiert als industrialer Widerpart, mit scheinbar dampfbetriebener Mechanik, dann als ultramoderne Blackbox und als Transformator. So – oder so ähnlich - hält man auf dem Markt der Trödler den Gedanken wach, dass Museen nur an Allerseelen geöffnet sein sollten.

Rigobert Dittmann | Bad Alchemy


Thomas Lehns analoga synth är fylld av gnistregn, han själv kokar över av lust att spela, jag vet ingen som är så omöjlig att hejda som han. Därför är de flesta av hans album öppna och spelglada, trots ovillkorlig experimentlusta och obönhörliga impronerver.

Sedan nio år tillbaka samarbetar han med violinisten Tiziana Bertoncini. Hon är lika kraftfull i ton och utspel som vilken gammal jazzlirare som helst. Det är fullt ös och mer än heltäckande teknik.

Skivan har två spår. Den halvtimmeslånga ”Galaverna” är inspelad i en utställningshall i Milano 2010. Musiken bor i ett stort rum med högt till tak. Lehn fyller med med sina syntböljor och Bertoncini surfar på topparna, skär genom ytan med sin fantastiska teknik. Det är inte tråkigt en sekund. Snarare ett magpirrande äventyr att följa de två. Och sällan har två ljudbilder så gärna gift sig med varandra som här, då violin och synth möts.

Andra stycket, ”Moss Agate”, är kortare och hämtat från en live performance i Heidelberg 2006, där spelarna inte delade rum direkt utan huserade i var sin container. Föreställningen innehöll, vad jag förstår, mycket mer än enbart en duo mellan Bertoncini och Lehn.

Det präglar musiken. Försiktiga slag mot violinens klangkropp flaggar först ensamma i ett ödsligt ljudlandskap, där Lehns synt skär som om det vore starkt ljus i ett stort mörker. Vissa ljud hörs långt borta, andra kryper nära. Det är först efter fyra-fem minuter som de finner varandra och Bertoncini blandar vassa stårkdrag med ettrigt pizzicatospel och musikerna riktigt får tag i varandra.

Vid det laget verkar de båda ha glömt av den installatoriska omgivningen för sitt täta samspel. Litet leker Lehn med rumsligheten genom retfullt ekospel, där några musikaliska formler upprepas. Bertoncini bär musiken över det anekdotiska med sitt distinkta spel, där ekoformerna finner en form att förändras i. Med henne förs musiken obönhörligt framåt mot en brant kulmen och upplösning i några kristallinska toner. Det känns att ha ropat i skogen och plötsligt befinna sig på en äng.

Thomas Millroth | Sound of Music


Dokonalou symbiķzu pøedvádėjí na opusu Horsky Park také italská houslistka Tiziana Bertoncini a vėhlasnũ nėmeckũ hráč na analogovũ syntezátor Thomas Lehn. Zdánlivá mesaliance dvou „neslučitelnũch“ nástrojų pøináší naopak kongeniální prųnik akustického a elektronického svėta a pøedstavuje nadčasovou rovinu, kde se v houslovũch partech taví reminiscence na pøedešlá století s neofuturistickũmi eskapádami. Ústrojná hráčská bravura houslistky tak „ladí“ se syntetickũmi zvuky non plus ultra. Lehn sice dává prųchod i své plíživé vũbušnosti, ale rozhodnė nepøeválcovává drsné i jemné trylky své kolegynė. Vzniká tak úžasné napėtí, nikoliv však nepøíjemná tenze. Místy jistė velmi expresivní dílo, ale na druhou i pohlazení „balsamico“. Vlastnė mė napadá, že se tady svũm zpųsobem støetává a zároveō souzní nėmecká strojovost a italská impulsivnost, pøičemž bych ovšem Thomase rozhodnė nechtėl naøknout z nėjakého „germánského chladu“. Ten je mu dozajista cizí.

Petr Slaby