Calum Builder (b. 1991) is an Australian composer and saxophonist based in Copenhagen whose wide-ranging practice encompasses improvisation, installation and sound art. His work is characterised by unusual combinations of instruments and voices, and recently, a particular fascination with the sonic possibilities of pipe organs. These explorations, both within and outside the organ’s usual church/ritual context, led Builder to construct an organ of his own design, using pipes salvaged from various Danish churches, organ builders and collectors. 

Although his latest recording features a more commonly recognisable instrument – the organ of the Mariendals Kirke in Copenhagen – Renewal Manifestation is nevertheless imbued with a similarly deep interest in organ mechanics, which, like saxophones, says Builder, are intrinsically “tied to air and breath”. Over the course of this four-movement work, these life essentials audibly transform, from lumbering, asthmatic uncertainty to confidently serene animation – the organ as Frankenstein, without being too literal. 

Air travels through bellows; rich organic sounds beat, clunk, flutter and drone, at first in very low registers, but as members of the Crush String Collective join Danish organist Svend Hvidtfelt Nielsen in the second movement, the effect is one of heavenly transcendence. The final triumphant movement, a contented, multi-voiced sigh, renders the preceding journey utterly logical, a truly joyous experience.  

The interplay between instruments is warm and natural; the organ does not (as can easily happen) dominate. Performances are precise and attentive to nuance, and the expansive recording allows for these beautifully captured sounds to weave around one another in space.

Listen on Apple Music

Title: Renewal Manifestation
Works: Works by Calum Builder
Performers: Calum Builder sax, Svend Hvidtfelt Nielsen org, Crush String Collective
Label: DA CAPO 8.226673 (digital download)

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