Rettner & Siems is the duo of Stephen Rettner (piano, synthesizer) and Ben Siems (cello, guitar). Rettner is a keyboard virtuoso who specializes in experimental music, both improvised and composed. Siems is well known as the leader of The Willie August Project jazz trio and the composer of over thirty soundtrack works for dance, theater, film and video. Together, they spontaneously create subtly structured improvisational performances that range from tender and lyrical to adventurously avant-garde.
On three separate dates in 2010 and 2011, Rettner (of Brooklyn, NY) and Siems (of Minneapolis, MN) got together at Siems' Minneapolis home, set up microphones, and created music together. From those sessions, they chose their favorite sixty minutes, now available on this unique CD.
"I am not a musician, just a listener with wide tastes. And I like [this] music – the melodic lines, and the aleatory excursions. And the gentle way it is accomplished. And the combination of cello and piano or synthesizer." — Dr. R. Hoffman, curator, Entertaining Science Music Series, New York, NY.
With three exceptions, the music on this disc was created spontaneously at the moment of performance/recording. Neither performer had any knowledge of what the other was about to play. You are therefore hearing compositions that, in Eric Dolphy's words, are "gone ... in the air." They will never be performed or heard again, except on this recording.
The three exceptions are, "Dreamspace, Shared," "The Cage Overlay" and "Untangled Movement." "Dreamspace, Shared" is based on a pitch-set improvisation I originally composed as a cello duet in the summer of 2009. In each passage, each performer creates chords and melodic phrases using a specified group of pitches. "The Cage Overlay" was the result of a happy accident: while mixing the tracks from the November 26, 2010 session, I inadvertently combined the guitar and synth-organ parts from one improvisation with the synth parts from another. We liked the result and so let it stand. Since the role of chance occurrences in music composition was an abiding interest of the great John Cage, we named the piece in Mr. Cage's honor. In the case of "Untangled Movement," the cello and piano parts were improvised spontaneously; Steve added the synthesized parts afterward. —Ben Siems, June 2012