Ernesto Rodrigues,
Guilherme Rodrigues,
Gabriel Paluk
& Jose Oliveira,
(Creative Sources, 2002)

When reviewing music, I prefer to listen first, without the influence of reading the cover. When I began to play Ficta, I took the CD out of the player twice to check for scratches and flaws, then resignedly admitted defeat when the disc appeared to be in perfect condition -- and read the allegedly explanatory introduction by Rui Eduardo Paes (music writer).

He pronounces it "Zen Nihilism," and for 46 minutes 39 seconds, the musicians produce six "nihilisms." The title, "Ficta," purports to be the name used up until the Renaissance for the portion of a music work left to the discretion of the performer. Furthermore, Paes says that this ficta is the "imaginary music that is impossible to determine on paper." This, I'm afraid, put me much in mind of "The Emperor's New Clothes" -- I had the strong feeling that someone was trying hard to convince me of the existence of something not only intangible, but actually not there. This interpretation leaves me in no doubt that the music is imaginary.

This "work" may possibly have an appeal to a small percentage of dedicated musicians: those who shun commercialism and embrace spiritualism, perhaps. It holds no appeal for me. I will try to describe it: imagine four musicians positioned on a huge escalator (if you've seen A Matter of Life and Death, a.k.a. Stairway to Heaven starring David Niven, you've got the idea already) with extra wide stair treads. Ernesto holds a violin, or a viola; Guilerme has a cello and a pocket trumpet; Gabriel is seated before a piano; and Jose is behind percussion instruments. The players are all in position, touching their instruments, poised on the verge of sound, but there is a problem -- the mechanism of the escalator and its power supply have been designed and developed by Heath Robinson, heavily influenced by Salvador Dali! This results in the escalator stuttering and stalling at irregular intervals, heavily interspersed with prolonged periods of inactivity. The musicians only play when the contraption is moving, and are perforce silent when it is still. Occasionally, when there is movement, it seems to take them so much by surprise they sound as if they then slide down a stair, slowed and hindered by a thick coating of molasses on each tread.

Have you got the idea? No? Let me try again -- you are attempting to tune in an ancient and cantankerous valve wireless radio in order to hear a concert. But the concert is delayed by 45 minutes, only a few musicians have arrived for the original time, so they tune up in a desultory fashion, but the radio station has no other material to fill the time slot, so they broadcast the sounds anyway. Your decrepit set fades in and out, so you merely hear sporadic and incoherent snatches of the tuning-up procedure. If this concept of "music" appeals to you, you will adore Ficta. Personally, I think the CD will be a useful addition to the home as its pale yellow and sage colours will pass well enough for a drinks coaster!

- Rambles
written by Jenny Ivor
published 21 June 2003