Music Reviews from the Staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House


June 25, 2019
Stereo Trumpet - Birgit Ulher & Leonel Kaplan
Label: Relative Pitch Records
Catalog #: RPR1030
Country: United States
Release Date: January, 2015
Media: cd entry

In St. John's vision of the apocalypse, seven angelic trumpeters presented non-idiomatic performances. Because this article is intended as a belated review of "Stereo Trumpet", a duet performed by Birgit Ulher and Leonel Kaplan, we limit ourselves to recounting the performances of only the first two angels. We reproduce the descriptions, courtesy of the Douay-Rheims Bible, one at a time.

And the first angel sounded the trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mingled with blood, and it was cast on the earth, and the third part of the earth was burnt up, and the third part of the trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up. [Rev. 8:7]

Birgit Ulher (b. 1961, Nuremberg, Germany) has "established a distinguished grammar of sounds beyond the open trumpet". ( While she has developed a unique repertoire of extended-playing techniques, it has thus far been free, to our knowledge, of accompaniment by hail and fire, and remains unmingled with blood. It is true that one can hear in the movement of air through the brass tubes, the intimation of a mighty wind. Perhaps, if this breath were amplified on a biblical scale, such a gale might lay low houses and topple castle walls. When attributed exclusively to the lungs of Ms. Ulher, the sound inspires the listener to merely imagine calamity, especially the total deconstruction of the dreams of Francois Perinet, who in 1839 invented the piston-valved trumpet with the goal of making the trumpet fully capable of generating the chromatic scale. In terms of its sonic repercussions, the effects of the trumpeting of Ms. Ulher are not confined to the Earth, the trees and green grass. Indeed, the ears of Homo sapiens, Canis lupus familiaris and other species can be attenuated to these acoustic waves.

And the second angel sounded the trumpet: and as it were a great mountain, burning with fire, was cast into the sea, and the third part of the sea became blood: [Rev. 8:8]

Leonel Kaplan (b. 1973, Buenos Aires, Argentina) has opted to forgo the volcanic impulse to cast mountains en masse into the sea in preference for scattering manageable pieces one at a time, paying special attention to the clatter each stone makes as it skitters down the slope to the beach. Such is the attention to detail required when one seeks to redefine the sound of an instrument. Again, based upon our limited knowledge, Mr. Kaplan has not yet been able to transform any fraction of the sea to blood with his trumpet, nor have we any indication that he has expressed interest in such an endeavor. To the contrary, it seems his interest is in the transformation of intentionally recalcitrant sounds into music through the gentle perversion of brass and wind.

Naturally, one is left to wonder what sort of apocalypse is heralded by the combined trumpeting of Ms. Ulher and Mr. Kaplan. It is perhaps not the bombast St. John imagined would accompany the cataclysmic Second Coming. Still, we can imagine more modest and intimate personal apocalypses, for which "Stereo Trumpet" provides the appropriate soundtrack. In such a case, there is some modulated dismantling of the self, in which erratic and unintended fraying around the edges threatens both the coherence of the self and the intentionality of the act. A new, unanticipated form arises from the resulting chaos. It is frightening in its unfamiliarity at the same time as it is pleasing in its unexplored potential.

One may wonder about the utility of comparing a musical recording to biblical verses. Regarding the capabilities of the trumpet, some readers have likely already perceived the pun, grossly over-played in this review, that "Stereo Trumpet" presented a revelation of sorts to this listener.



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