Duo Oxymoron – Scented Rushes



FM384-2 CD, Download und Streaming

Release 05.07.2024

Poetry arises from the clash of opposites: Oxymoron, a linguistic stylistic figure that gave the Berlin duo of harp

(Anna Steinkogler) and accordion (Valentin Butt) their name.

The two musicians combine tradition with innovation, combining jazz, classical and neo-classical music with stylistic confidence, with the courage to experiment and driven by a desire for the new. Steinkogler and Butt naturally have no interest in perpetuating categories such as light and serious music. Here, two people have come together to create something powerful, unheard and intensely emotional. In the absence of role models for this extraordinary line-up, they create a highly attractive, completely independent sound universe with an individual aesthetic, virtuoso and poetic at the same time, through the exciting combination of instrumental and stylistic contrasts.

“Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality” (Lewis Caroll)

 Album Scented Rushes

It sounds like a fairy tale: Overcoming boundaries. Transforming contradictions into magic. Staging or merging extremes as the mood takes you. In “Scented Rushes”, the debut album by DUO OXYMORON, accordionist Valentin Butt and harpist Anna Steinkogler achieve this with refreshing ease.

With their exploratory sound language, the duo reinvents the oldest narrative art, leaving narrow boundaries and cliché-laden pigeonholes behind, imbued with the playful spirit and enigmatic humor of the literary source: “Scented Rushes” is both a homage and a complicit wink to Lewis Carroll, author of the two Alice novels. In his bizarre texts, the Oxford mathematics professor gleefully reduces habits of thought and rules to absurdity – a feast of paradoxes that Steinkogler and Butt have chosen as the inspiration for their concept album.

Fairytale suite Scented Rushes

The album opens with the eponymous five-movement fairytale suite “Scented Rushes”. A tailor-made composition in which you can feel from the very first note how perfectly the sound characteristics of its counterpart are played with. A stylistic fusion of virtuoso classical playing techniques and reminiscences of jazz, blues, tango, contemporary music and baroque improvisations. The approach to each individual movement varies and affects form and color. Alongside the fully composed piece, there may be a sketch that fills in spontaneously and during the performance. Butt’s discreet, unobtrusive use of the accordion bellows, his original and flexible registration, the deliberate shifts in pitch, together with Steinkogler’s powerful bass, expressive dynamics and surprisingly complex harmonies on the harp, create an astonishing coloration that goes far beyond the expected.

With playful ingenuity in sound production, guided by virtuoso mastery of the instruments, the DUO OXYMORON creates a fairytale suite with “Scented Rushes” that does justice to the lively wit of the literary source and at the same time reveals an extensive experimental field of further sources of inspiration.

Fairytale suite Ma Mère l’Oye

One of these sources of inspiration, Maurice Ravel’s “Ma Mère l’Oye” (Mother Goose), mirrors the composition Scented rushes with its five movements. Intimate and chamber music-like on the one hand, the DUO OXYMORON draws on the full range of its instrumentation to bring Ravel’s multifaceted richness to bloom. How the complex overtone structures of harp and accordion merge, how the two broad registers complement each other in different frequency ranges – that is great orchestral music.

With this suite, Maurice Ravel embarked on a search for the poetry of the child’s soul and elevated a certain naivety to a stylistic principle, following on from the narrative art of Charles Perrault, whose elegant adaptation of French fairy tales builds a bridge between the narrative traditions of the Middle Ages and modern times.

With sparing means, small gestures and a love of delicate detail, Steinkogler and Butt venture into extreme registers of height and depth, enjoy the (only apparent) emptiness of the musical text and conjure up a wide palette of delicate colors in their interpretation. The result is a crystalline sound painting, a successful balancing act between lightness and profundity.

Komposition Parvis

Contrasts are a key principle on this album. So it is only logical to conclude with DUO OXYMORON at the place that was the forum for the medieval origins of fairy-tale storytelling and whose ambivalence has a long tradition. In his piece “Parvis“, originally for two harps, the contemporary Belgian composer Bernard Andrès draws on the splendor and power of medieval rituals. The sacred and the profane collide on the “Parvis”, the church square: the clamor of the market and the ringing of bells, the patter of horses and processions, life and death.

Sophisticated build-up of tension, frenetic ecstasy and explosive discharge: in their new interpretation, Steinkogler and Butt show once again that the blending of different tonal languages is not a contradiction in terms, but a pioneering approach.

With Scented Rushes, DUO OXYMORON have succeeded in creating a profoundly playful concept album that allows its sources of inspiration from traditional narrative art and modern music to collide in an electrifying way, wrestle around each other and ultimately merge poetically.


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