74CD - Maja Bugge - No Exit - CD plus download

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Music recorded in Britain’s longest and deepest canal tunnel


The Norwegian cellist Maja Bugge's second solo album “No Exit” was recorded inside Standedge canal tunnel by Hervé Perez. The music on this album is mainly improvised and responds to the 3 ¼ mile long tunnels unique acoustic and sounds. She is also using the history of the site as an inspiration echoing the rhythmical patterns of feet moving the boats through tunnels in the 19th century and the sound of stones being carved out of the ground 200 years ago. 


This results in a haunting, meditative and expressive improvisation. It is a homage to a unique site and its sound. The “lone” cello responds to the unpredictability of the space and together they make something.


Maja Bugge is a cellist and composer living in Lancaster. Her work conveys the familiar and the unfamiliar, the epic and the everyday. She is renowned for balancing melodic and meditative improvisations with experimental material, as well as playing concerts and recording in unusual sites.


The recording was made as part of Marsden Jazz Festival 2017 and with support from the Canal and River Trust and Jazz North.


Quotes on Maja Bugge’s work:


“It was captivating to observe Bugge improvising with her surroundings.”  - The New York city Jazz Record 3rd July 2017


“Cellist Maja Bugge is all about location” - Nick Hasted, Jazzwise, June 2017


Maja Bugge website


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Standedge Tunnel stretches 3¼ miles from Diggle at one of the Pennines, to Marsden at the other. It is the highest (196 metres above sea level), longest (5,029 metres) and deepest canal (194 metres) in the UK. The Tunnel forms part of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal which runs for 20 miles between Huddersfield in West Yorkshire and Ashton under Lyne in Greater Manchester.


Very good cello album by Maja Bugge, a Norwegian player who recorded No Exit (DISCUS MUSIC DISCUS 74CD) in concert in 2017. The “unique selling point” is that she was doing in Standedge Canal Tunnel, and make no mistake she uses the surroundings as a totally integrated part of the performance. Matter of fact the aim was to mix up compositions with free improvisations, the latter being her response to this unusual setting.


If you want some idea of what it’s like to be surrounded by heavy Victorian brickwork while you’re attempting to make music, I direct you to the photo inside the CD. It tells us quite a lot…for one thing she’s wearing a construction helmet, probably on the advice of health and safety inspectors, and the stark lighting effect – presumably placed there for simple practical reasons – has the effect of emphasising her loneliness, as she faces the darkness ahead of her. There’s steel and determination in her stance, however, which suggests a strong-mindedness which I think translates into the grooves; it’s as though she could bore her way through the unknown for all three and one-half miles of this tunnel with her music, persisting in the face of unyielding resistance. I’m electing to read the record as a metaphor for this grim odyssey, something which equates to the hard decisions we must all face when we choose to go it alone, undertaking a task which no-one else can do for us. There may be ‘no exit’ in sight when we start out, but we must go and do it anyway.



As to Bugge’s playing, it’s rugged and almost aggressive in the way she stabs, swipes and bows her instrument to produce heavy growls and barks amongst the very beautiful musical interludes (which feel like they were lifted from a 17th century composition for viols and radically reworked), even rapping the body of the cello to produce resonate percussive blows. Pretty unorthodox, I would expect, and probably classical cellists who make a living playing pretty tunes are currently blanching into their handkerchiefs at the thought this record even exists. Can I stress it’s not just about using the natural echo of the tunnel as an acoustic sounding board for aesthetic effect; although that echo is there, I sense it’s not just to make the record more palatable with stony reverb. Bugge seems to be pushing back, answering the void in front of her with her resolute musical thrusts and stabs.



The notes also describe another dimension to this semi-conceptual work, in that she has studied the history of the site and has in her mind the idea of imitating the sounds of feet of men carrying the canal barges, and even the sound of the stones themselves being carved before that. All in all, Bugge has set herself a considerable intellectual and musical challenge, and she carries it off courageously. A huge success and a unique record. From 29th October 2018. – Ed Pinsent, SOUND PROJECTOR




Bugge comes from the northern part of Norway. Nowadays she is based in Lancaster (UK) where

she works and lives as a cellist and composer. As a cello teacher she loves to work with children.

As a performer a debuted on CD in 2012 with the album ‘Shelter’, released by Euredice. Recorded

in an out of use oil tank. As she likes to work with the characteristics of exceptional spaces. As is

the case for her new album ‘No Exit’. Recorded by Hervé Perez inside the Standedge tunnel of 3 ¼

mile length. “She is also using the history of the site as an inspiration echoing the rhythmical

patterns of feet moving the boats through tunnels in the 19th century and the sound of stones being

carved out of the ground 200 years ago.”  The CD consists of four pieces of music that are mainly

improvised and came into being in contact and response to the specific conditions of this space.

With percussive effects, slapping the cello, sliding fingers over its surface, etc. she evokes this site.

This results in improvisations that are of a meditative and reflective nature. One can easily follow

all movements and gestures she makes during her playing that has a central role for melodic

elements. Neither complexity nor virtuosity is her thing. The use of extended techniques is limited.

But her music is very inspired and it works. It really tells you a story. Nice work. - DORF MULDER, VITAL WEEKLY




Attentive to the acoustic character of the structure and space, her music also resonates with rhythmic and textural evocations of physical labour once required for the tunnel's construction under the hills and its daily operation.  While relatively austere...No Exit meets the basic Discus prerequisite of imaginative vitality. - JULIAN COWLEY, THE WIRE



Recorded by sound engineer Hervé Perez in the tunnel, 200 years old and over 3 miles long, of Standedge, West Yorkshire, the disk has the solo performance of the Norwegian cellist, residing in Lancaster, Maja Bugge. Her instrument interacts with the unusual environment, meditative atmosphere-generating sound improvised melodic lines and melancholy. The Standedge Tunnel, five tracks Lullaby for Legging, Passage, Boat and No Exit recall the experience of the tunnel through which the monologue of the arc of the musician seems to seek a dialogue, an interaction, a possibility of communication. The dramatic character of the music is appreciated especially knowing the particular situation of the context of his performance. – A G Bertinetto, KATHODIK



Discus se však nezpečuje ani zařadit do svého programu nevšední alba sólová. Tak norská violoncellistka Maja Bugge, žijící v Lancasteru, možná překvapí tím, že na své fotografii v bookletu má na hlavě helmu. To proto, že svých pět improvizací alba No Exit rozezněla 8. října 2017 v kanálovém tunelu Scandedge při jazzovém festivalu Marsden. Ten tunel je nejdelší v Anglii, je totiž dlouhý tři a čtvrt míle, vede pod Penninami z Marsdenu do Diggle (najděte si na mapě) a Bugge do něj nesestoupila pro nic za nic: jeho akustika dokresluje, doplňuje a dohrává zvolený nástroj a vytváří ojedinělý zvuk. K čemuž je nutno přičíst meditativnost, střídanou s expresivitou, epičnost, prolínanou každodenní záchytností, i experimentálnost, provázanou probalancováváním obvyklostních náchvěvů. Jakmile se opatrně vynoří první vyhmatávané tóny desetiminutové Lullaby for Standedge Tunnell, je jasno. Hudebnice vystřídává jednohubkové výšky a vystrčrůžkové podehrávky, vyjednocuje je do melodického lichocení, důsažného a důsledného, námluvně plnotónového, pojišťovaného chvílemi naznačovanou zastřeností, chvílemi naopak až brutálně odpalestrovávanou vyrobustněností. Celek je samobytně záběrový, výzvědně ozvěnový, opřestávkovaný a posouvaný do nabíravě zabíravé kvaziukolébavkovosti, vytýkavě potýkavé. Cello se občas proměňuje v perkusivní velenástroj, probubněný a propráskaný, jindy však se proobjímává až do líbezna. Bez pauzy navazuje Legging, střídavě melodizující a protýkaně úhozný, záspěšný i zavelebovaný, vydůrazněně rozvyprávěný a opět zvýbušněný. Vše se tu prolíná, prostupuje, nacházivě rozšifrovává, odhalovaně vyluzňuje, obhlédavě rozevírá, hledačsky vyznívá ze zášeří tunelu, jako by se v dáli rýsovalo východisko, nicméně No Exit zůstává utkvělé. Když se opět bez přechodu vyjeví Passage, pochopíme, že Bugge jde zřejmě o jednolitou suitu, plnou náznaků, názvuků, prozvuků, východisek vždy znovu nesvéhlavě zapošívaných, tu opatrnicky vyhmatávaných, tu najíždivě vylícovávaných, tu zase zádrnčivě zašumařených nebo zezákopně rozehrávaných do sličné melodičnosti. A tak se to děje i v Boatu, vyvzdorovávaně rozjíždivém, zákrutně pospíšivém a posunčinově záberném i záhledně spočívavém, dokud není se zámručným podvozkem domelodizováno. Když se prohandrkovaně vysouká titulní záležitost s výhledovým vymětáním, plným projemnělé úsečnosti, je zprotikladněno do bezvýchodně (?) vabankové vytřímavosti, ze které šmahem vyhřezne zavroucněná spočívavost. Vždy znovu se (i v celém albu) z vytěkávání vysouká melodie, je však vzápětí skrumážně rozemnuta, dokud tady – v samotném závěru – není skutečně setrvale zatunelována. Jako celek je No Exit skutečně rozprostřeno mezi nepředvídanost a samozřejmost, což vytváří třetí rovinu, renovovanou do nečekaného zmermomocňování. – ZDENEK SLABY, HISVOICE