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«MOnuMENT», the new and first solo album of Estonian, Copenhagen-based composer-sax player Maria Faust, is an evocative homage to the Gothic, Estonian Kuressaare Castle located on the island of Saaremaa in Western Estonia. The album offers an arresting sonic journey that zooms into and out of the heights and depths of one of the best-preserved medieval castles in Estonia, one that deeply inspired both Faust and the Estonian-born American architect Louis Kahn who spent their formative childhood years on the island, albeit generations apart. Kahn’s monumental, brutalist architectural style that he would become famous for was often credited to his early years in Estonia and specifically the monolithic majesty of the ancient castle in Kuressaare, which he would reference as influential to his voice. Almost eighty years later, Faust, who like Kahn was born in Kuressaare, spent her childhood years playing around the castle and also cites it as structural and creative inspiration.

«MOnuMENT» reflects the tonal architecture of the centuries-old castle from different angles and spectrums of light and time. Faust used the physical space of the castle as an inspiration and employed its echoes, angles, reverb, light, and shadows as tools. «MOnuMENT» was recorded live in the Kuressaare castle in May 2021, and Faust added electronic pedals and effects to her alto sax in order to expand its sonic palette. The composition was premiered on Kahn’s 120th birthday at the Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island in New York with a quartet of brass and woodwind musicians, including Faust on alto sax, Peter Evans on trumpet, Sam Kulik on trombone, and Dan Peck on tuba. The title of the album represents both Kahn and Faust. Monument for Kahn’s architectural brutalism. Moment for Faust’s improvisational compositions and nu means now.

In its own special way, «MOnuMENT» is true to the imaginative and always surprising compositional ideas of Faust. The overall tone is obviously contemplative and often quite melancholic, but it reflects faithfully Faust’s charismatic voice and her unconventional but inspiring vision. The fourteen concise pieces are expressive but sound like timeless folk-like melodies. But «MOnuMENT» also stresses the inquisitive, adventurous sides of Faust, experimenting with the highly resonant space of the castle, and with extended breathing techniques including heavy vibrato and glissandos. She sketches touching and innocent images, casts Kahn-inspired Fenno-Urgic urgent and frightening chants and spells and tells impossible Talmudic kōans. This labyrinthian, sonic tapestry imagines and celebrates the Kuressaare castle as a living sonic entity that not only still resonates in Faust’s formative memories and her own artistic vision but is also ingrained in our conceptions of architecture, space and sound.

Brilliant and moving composition.

Eyal Hareuveni 

Maria Faust (as, pedals)

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