UNA CORDA DIARIES

London, 2021

Marie Awadis is an Armenian musician based in Germany. Her music stands out by an elegant mix on contemporary minimalism and oriental flavours. When I had reviewed her second solo album, Searching, in 2018, I had noticed how the composer’s music shines with modesty and melodicity, and how each of her pieces seemed to aim at surprising the listener with twists and turns. It is the case once more with Una Corda Diaries, her latest release; a musical diary performed on the now well-known Una Corda piano.

 

The Una Corda piano was invented by David Klavins in collaboration with the German artist Nils Frahm. Its originality resides in having only one string per key — as opposed to the standard three — on an open body steel frame design. The resulting sound of the instrument is softer, rounder and more intimate. Of course, the Una Corda is very well associated with Frahm, and has been a signature of his sound since he started exploring soft and felt piano. 

With Una Corda Diaries, Awadis detaches the instrument from its association with Frahm and shows another facet of its tonal qualities, as well as how versatile it is.

 

As the album was conceived and intended to be understood as a personal diary, then it feels natural to review it similarly. 

“Day I” immediately impresses by both the light touch of Awadis and the nature of the instrument; it is naturally restricted and this creates a particular tone to Awadis’ music that shows in the ethereal quality of “Day II”.

Awadis writes for the instrument, but does not submit to it and to the contrary seems to challenge it, pushing it in other ranges, as in “Day III”. “Day IV” shows how the pianist manages to create a narrative and a cohesion between the pieces, in spite of the spontaneous quality of the music and the short amount of time during which it was created. 

“Day V”and “Day VI” introduce an interplay of textures, sheet of sounds and voice motion; elements that work very well with the nature of the Una Corda. 

Finally, and perhaps as an unconscious reminder of her origins, Awadis delivers with “Day VII” a piece that recalls some of her earlier works. 

 

A diary is an opportunity for comfort and intimacy, for reflection and planning. For Awadis, the piano was her diary and her way to escape. Composing music became her own diary, and Una Corda Diaries is the result.

With each day comes a written diary entry; not intended as revelatory, it seems to add context and understanding to each piece. Some include thoughts, some descriptions and recollections or narratives. 

Una Corda Diaries is the statement of a musician which has evolved through time, and who grows with her tools, enabling new ideas and concepts to emerge, using different technological material to craft new musical material. 

It is also a reflection of what this year has been, and how music allows to find some sort of balance and relief in regards to the outside world.

 

© 2021 Doug Thomas. All Rights Reserved.

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