Recorded during a month-long residency at Brooklyn art space Pioneer Works, Citadels & Sanctuaries is a “coming of age” album from the New York-based clarinetist and composer, and his most personal and accessible collection of music to date.
“A clarinetist and an ace sound designer, Cymerman crafts aural worlds of rare detail.” – Rolling Stone Magazine
Jeremiah Cymerman is a New York City-based clarinetist and producer working at the intersection of improvised, electroacoustic, and experimental music. Since the early 2000s, his prolific recorded output for labels such as Tzadik, Astral Spirits, and Cymerman’s own 5049 Records have been described by The Wire as “blown out studio creations that merge extended reed techniques with the crushing, airless sonics of black metal.”
After working tirelessly in New York’s avant-garde music communities for the better part of 20 years, Cymerman’s 40th birthday inspired him to release a “coming of age” album. Each piece on Citadels & Sanctuaries is dedicated to a composer that has played a vital role in the clarinetist’s musical development, paying tribute to the various idiosyncratic approaches of Alvin Lucier, Morton Feldman, Evan Parker, and many others.
“I wanted to inhabit the sound worlds of these artists, participating with the music as a player like I have as a listener,” Cymerman explains. “Some pieces were very deliberate from the start, while others happened more organically after they were being shaped. With different people in mind, it helped me focus each piece to get it to completion.”
Recorded during a month-long residency at Brooklyn art space Pioneer Works in late 2020, Cymerman’s fifth solo album is his most accessible work to date. While past releases have included extensive edits, overdubs, and effects processing to push his clarinet into the realm of abstraction, nearly every piece on Citadels & Sanctuaries was captured in a single take.
“This album was recorded when playing lines and melodies were feeling really good for me,” says Cymerman. “It feels good to be able to share my work with people who might not have all this context about the music. They can just enjoy it because it has an immediacy to it. There are abrasive, dissonant parts that might be off-putting, but for the most part I like showing another side of myself. I don’t want to just make abstract, dark music all the time.”
“From the Metaphysical to the Transcendental (For Bill Smith)” opens the album with curlicues of clarinet drifting through a meditative backdrop of synth drones and chiming percussion. This piece for the late Canadian reed player and founding member of the CCMC was the first dedication planned for Citadels & Sanctuaries. “Spheres of Humanity (For Alvin Lucier)” introduces higher-pitched tones, before “The Absolute and Its Tearing (for Horațiu Rădulescu)” unleashes a torrent of sputtering electronics.
“I got a sound going between my clarinet and a pedal that created a repetitive psychedelic glitch and threw up a hard left-right pan,” Cymerman recalls. “It was immediately hypnotizing for me in a way that a lot of Rădulescu’s work for solo clarinet or violin can be. It’s busy and super detailed, but actually fairly static. Even though there’s so much information happening it’s really just a couple of notes. That’s a place I like to be as a listener.”
“Conscious Faith (For Evan Parker)” closes the album on a personal note as Cymerman extends his gratitude to a longtime friend, teacher, and collaborator. This mesmerizing eight-minute paen is specifically inspired by Parker’s 2012 album As The Wind, where he is joined by percussionists Mark Nauseef and Toma Gouband. While honoring the language of Parker’s soprano sax multiphonics and harmonics, Cymerman also plays six different bowls and gongs. To complete its feeling of sacred devotion, the piece begins with a field sample recorded by Cymerman inside Paris’s Notre-Dame cathedral several years before it was set ablaze.
“Evan and I have talked at length about looking up towards something and making art that attempts to ascend to some kind of height,” says Cymerman. “I feel these pieces are genuine offerings of love and respect to just a few of the artists who have had a huge impact on me.”
Jeremiah Cymerman – Citadels & Sanctuaries
August 20th, 2021 – 5049 Records
All music performed and recorded at Pioneer Works, November 2020 by Jeremiah Cymerman
Mixed by Marc Urselli & Jeremiah Cymerman
Artwork & layout by Toby Driver
Deepest thanks to Justin Frye & everyone at Pioneer Works