Cor is renowned for his higly personal extended techniques inside the piano, which make use of (electro-) magnetism, radio broadcasting and a whole range of rotating devices. In 1995 Cor released his first piano solo CD, 7CC IN IO, and in 2006 his second, Stengam.
The covers for 7CC IN IO and Stengam.
Bellagram, 1998. Straight forward jazz piano in Cor's trio with Wilbert de Joode - bass and Han Bennink - drums. A deceptive medium tempo piece.
All is Nothing, Null is Anything is about the possibilities of a grand piano and my 45-year-long love/hate relationship with it. I recorded three tracks with three different approaches: - electrified (literally, I apply either + or - 9V to the frame plus strings, and then play the instrument with the other polarity via EQ-ing to various speakers, totally primitive); - electro-magitized (via electromagnetic waves, such as ebows and my own devices); and, - filtered (playing directly on the keyboard, but extremely dark). These three tracks are then layered and mixed resulting in a busy sound world, mixing harshness with tenderness, that might often only distantly remind you of a piano, however, all sounds share the very same source: my 1912 Ibach grand piano. Composed for Ears Have Ears, FBi radio, Sydney, December 2016.
Butterflies in my Laboratory uses an Ebow, manually placed directly on the strings as the score dictates.
Score: two musical loops, I and II, share three crossing points, A, B and C, from where the performer can ‘switch sides’. One can start and end in either loop at one of the three crossing points but one must play all sections at least once. The top stave represents the ebow, played with the right hand, and the lower stave the keys of the piano, played with the left hand.
Draaimolen (Merry-Go-Round), for piano solo with My self built EMBs (Empty Music Boxes).
Lighton, by Tony Buck - drums, Cor Fuhler - grand piano, Anna Zaradny - alto sax. Live in Poland, 2006.
Quatre main with Taku Unami during the Doekfestival #8, 2010.
In the last five or so years, Fuhler has been involved in a very wide range of projects which cumulatively reveal him to be an idiosyncratic musician of the first rate. I've grown accustomed to hearing him in gnarly electroacoustic small groups or in his own Corkestra, so I was a tad surprised to see this solo disc. A prepared piano recital, it's superb and instantly recognizable. Unlike the frequently quite anticprepared piano sets heard from other improvisers, Fuhler concentrates here on music that's highly atmospheric, somber and sepulchral. Fuhler uses mild preparations (such as super magnets and Ebows inside the piano) to superb effect, creating the feel of gentle, lolling bells or massive plangent drones. It's a lovely, at times even bewitching feel that recalls an Ambarchi/Müller improvisation or something. The sound is gorgeous, oscillating, and unfolding on Ferrous - a rattling bowl or something sits on top of string, vibrating crankily in contrast to the effulgent drone. It's very compelling stuff, almost like listening to Harry Partch if he was hooked on Eliane Radigue. I find it addictive and I love the subtle variations Fuhler introduces (with every so often an incisive pluck or pedal or pointed finger). But the bulk of the album is given over to the six-part title suite. A marvelous piece that's immediately arresting, it ranges from deep tuned gongs and cross-cutting high tones to almost watery or didgeridoo-like sound to gentle scrapings and overtones that suggest bowed electric guitars. A fascinating recital that's one of the year's best solo entries so far.
Jason Bivins l Signal to Noise l June 2007
Best described as a reductionist nocturne, Stengam, a solo piano outing, is more hypnotic than harmonic. Featuring one continuous 20-minute performance, plus two shorter introductory tracks, the CD highlights the talents of Dutch keyboardist Cor Fuhler who uses such stimulators as e-bows and magnets to transform the sound of an acoustic grand piano as if electronic add-ons are altering its function.
Without overdubbing, yet in full control of the instrument's keyboard, strings and soundboard, Fuhler's internal action include buzzy scratches with affiliated resonations so that each string's overtone reflects back on the externally sounded note. Similarly, plucks and slides produce wave-form-like hisses that resonate like tam-tam timbres, prolonged by pedaling. Widely spaced, low-frequency drones vibrate powerfully, but are weighed just so in order not to mask the dynamic cadences or guitar-like resonations above. One standout is Ferrous, which in performance is more buoyant than the title would have you believe. This 12-minute, crepuscule portrait resonates with repeated drum-like textures and fluttering oscillations, yet attains a delicate calm at its climatic finale.
Moving unhurriedly from glistening, strummed arpeggios to sharper, dynamic chords throughout the CD, Fuhler delineates a uniquely constructed, hermitic yet fascinating sound world. Overall, he demonstrates that with proper spatial organization unexpected, sustained tones from inside and outside the piano can be structured to create organic coherence.
Ken Waxman l WholeNote l May 2007
Since John Cage drew attention to (rather than invented) prepared piano in the middle of the last century, it has steadily gained in popularity and acceptance, to the extent that most improvising pianists give it some role in their repertoire and it even makes occasional appearances in popular music.
While many pianists mainly play the keyboard straight, and dabble with using prepared piano and/or playing inside the piano, Cor Fuhler takes prepared piano to another level. Every pianist has their own distinctive ways of preparing their piano; these include using such things as sheets of paper, telephone directories, nuts and bolts, lumps of rubber, paper clips… As this link shows, Fuhler takes the preparation of his piano very seriously—using e-bows, magnets (stengam, geddit?), and home-made gadgets—and the inside of his piano can get quite crowded!
Here, Fuhler only plays prepared piano. Consequently one could listen to this album and, for long periods, not realize that a piano was being used. Yes there are passages where the use of the keyboard is evident—at the start of Stengam part 4, for instance—but otherwise you might believe that this is a small group performing on gamelan instruments, tone generators, percussion and strings with extensive use of electronics, such is the variety of sounds. But, extraordinarily, no overdubs, electronics or electronic improvements were used.
So, leaving aside the means of production, is it any good? Yes, yes, yes! Not only does Fuhler create a fine variety of sounds, he also puts them together in ways that are very listenable and satisfying. Lovers of eai and drones will find plenty here to enjoy. The opening tracks, North-South and Ferrous, are slowly paced and meditative, dominated by sounds like resounding gamelan gongs, on the second track metallic vibrations being overlaid. The remainder of the album consists of the ambitious six-part Stengam. Although each part is fine—at least, engaging, and at best, gripping—there is no obvious overarching unity that makes them into a suite. Maybe that is provided by the methodology, as each employs extensive use of e-bows and magnets, resulting in sustained drones of varying frequencies.
Cor Fuhler has created a series of idiosyncratic and highly individual soundscapes, as convincing a case for prepared piano as you are likely to hear.
John Eyles l All about jazz l April 2007
On his new solo CD, he plays an 'acoustic grand piano, using ebows and super magnets. No overdubs, no electronics, no electronic treatment'. Which is something I read on the cover after I heard the CD. Fuhler could have fooled me. I recognized indeed the piano, and yes, there are long sustained overtones, but just as easily I could have thought there was electronic treatment in these subtle walls of droning and sustaining sounds, with sparse interception by the piano itself. So there are none. Wow! Along the lines of Alvin Lucier, but in a much more musical context. Whereas much of Lucier's work stays on the somewhat clinical and conceptual sides of things, Fuhler expands beyond it, and makes great, careful music. It hardly sounds like a disc of improvisation music, as one may expect from this label, but more a disc of composed music. Great stuff.
Frans de Waard l Vital Weekly Earlabs l March 2007
More than many instruments, the piano has a sound, a history and a repertoire that can easily overwhelm a player’s individuality. How many times have you seen someone sit down and put his or her fingers to the keyboard only to hear a generic “piano” sound that turns the music into so much sonic whitewash? One way out of that cul de sac is piano preparation; detune it, retune it, put stuff on the strings either randomly or with careful consideration, and the instrument can’t help but sound different.
Dutchman Cor Fuhler is definitely not a man to take any instrument at face value; in addition to being an accomplished keyboardist, he’s also pursued deep inquiries into non-keyboard-controlled electronics and instrument invention. The imagination he wields in fashioning sound-makers does not desert him when it comes to making sounds, and he’s at the height of his powers throughout this marvelous album.
Ostensibly a solo piano recital, the title tells you want it’s really about. Hint — read backwards. Fuhler uses ebows and magnets throughout Stengam to harness pure resonance. At some points he summons a pure sine wave from a single string, or deploys gamelan-like tolls and clock-like chimes in cautious counterpoint. Fuhler is hardly the only player using these techniques, and he certainly doesn’t wield them as though nifty sounds are enough, although there are moments when they are. What makes this the first great avant album of 2007 is the disciplined and thoughtful way that he puts his novel sounds to use. Fuhler twines and turns his glassy tones as though his piano were an orchestra, albeit one that mainly plays water-filled wineglasses.
Bill Meyer l Dusted Magazine l March 2007
In some ways, and not only because they arrived in close proximity to each other, I find myself thinking of Stengam as a companion piece to Matthieu Saladin’s fine release on l’Innomable, Intervalles. Both are solo efforts, sure, but more to the point, each exercises great restraint in not using the arsenal at their fingertips to overwhelm the listener with effects, preferring a calmer, more circumspect approach to their material. Fuhler uses ebows and super magnets (and presumably less exotic objects) on his piano’s strings hence, I imagine, the title of the disc.
The recording is basically in three parts: two individual works and the six part title suite. North-South, the opening track, immediately (perhaps inevitably) evokes Cage but quickly adds elements that won’t be found in Sonatas and Interludes, including one that sounds like Greg Kelley vibrating a thin sheet of metal with his trumpet. Fuhler excites his instrument in a variety of ways, often playing off the more electronic or drone-oriented sounds presumably generated via ebow with rather percussive, flickering ones of unknown origin. Technical details aside, he constructs wonderfully convincing, carefully observed and spacious sound worlds, gently meandering pathways through his piano’s interior. As with Saladin, though there are almost always numerous events occurring, there’s never any sense of overcrowding, of piling on an effect for the effect’s sake. The second piece, Ferrous, mixes low pulses with skittering high ones that seem set into motion by a rapidly spinning object just barely making contact with the stringboard, these two sandwiching a selection of more liquid sounding elements that leak out the sides.
The Stengam suite is more ambitious and has a tougher job of maintaining cohesiveness over the course of some 23 minutes but by and large succeeds. Several of the “movements” (the third and last couple) are stellar enough on their own to obviate any minor qualms. The first of these begins with some deliciously grainy textures before fanning out into a dense array of drones while still retaining a fluttering undercurrent that keeps things tactile and appropriately dirt-smudged. Two delicious, underwater-sounding sections lead to the fantastic, ringing overtones leading into the finale, a layered set of intense waves that flame out into some handcrafted strokes recalling Partch’s kithara, before welling once again to draw things to a close.
Excellent, creative work, the best I’ve heard from Fuhler.
Brian Olewnick l Bagatellen l February 2007
See a graphic realisation of a solo concert in Paris, 2009: