Jürg Frey – Ephemeral Constructions

Three works - two for large ensembles of performers on sax, guitar, clarinet, voice, percussion, horn, flute, vibes, and objects that belie the size of the group in its fragile presences, with a shorter trio of Frey, Greg Stuart and Erik Carlson transitioning the large pieces; compositions conceived as both short presences within abundant orchestration. 

We tend to connect the aspect of structure with safety and stability;
the ephemeral, in contrast, in something uncertain and fleeting, something not easy to grasp.
thus structure and ephemerality seem to be opposites. 
in a musical work, though, the can coexist equivalently.
one on the one hand, the sum of constructive processes and clear formal decisions leads to a clear architecture.
consistently taking it into spheres of lightness and evanescence.
the persuasive, coercing power immanent to structure must be avoided. 
structure then becomes fragile and permeable, allowing the ephemeral to unfold its presence, and, in this
presence, to evoke a gleam of permanence.
a substantial part of my work takes place in this intermediate zone.
a structure hardly touched gives rise to a music that simply wants sensation. a breeze, light and shadow,
spaces of colour, a glimpse, a landscape.

- Jürg Frey, sketchbook, 2007.


University Of South Carolina Emperimental Music Workshop Ensemble are:

Jürg Frey / clarinet
Philip Snyder / flute
Rachel Whelan / flute, piano
James Easteppe / guitar
John Kammerer / horn
Bailey Seabury / percussion
Brian Bethea / saxophone
Greg Stuart / vibraphone, percussion
Erik Carlson / violin
Nikil Sairam / violin
Logan McLean / voice
Michael Halbrook / objects
AJ Karp / objects
Brooke Rosenberg / objects
Chris Ruggiero / objects
Drake Strobel / objects
Eric Dennis / objects
Jessica Russell / objects
Kallam Ashmore / objects
Lauren Phillips / objects
Michael Halbrook / objects
Neil Thomas / objects
Olivia Smithson / objects


Recorded, mixed and mastered by Jeff Francis at Columbia, SC, April 2016. Made possible by a grant from SC honours college through generous support of jeannette and marshall winn ’74.

Available as 320k MP3 or 16bit FLAC 


1. ephemeral contructions (2015/2016) - 40:18

2. circular music #7 (2015) - 4:53

3. circular music#6 (2015) - 23:54

Jürg Frey

Swiss born Jürg Frey’s music is characterised by a gentle but unorthodox harmonic beauty, and has been widely celebrated in recent years at numerous festivals and performances. His saxophone quartet ‘Mémoire, Horizon’ was composed for the Konus Quartet, and released on CD to great acclaim on the Musiques Suisses label. It was described by Brian Olewnick as “a wonderful, absorbing and thought-provoking work, possibly my favourite saxophone quartet ever….so, so great.”

Frey’s delicate piano music has also been highly praised. Reviewing ‘Circles and Landscapes’, Philip Thomas’s CD of his solo piano works, Michael Rosenstein wrote: “Thomas places each phrase and chord-set evenly across the duration of each piece and the music advances with an unwavering beauty bereft of any standard notion of melody or harmonic progression.”

And John Eyles commented: “Thomas delivers a flawless performance, leaving the listener to savour the spare beauty of the composition…Frey’s loving care and attention to detail shine through in his work. Simply exquisite.”