One Dark Night I Left My Silent House

Marilyn Crispell, David Rothenberg

Ever-adventurous pianist Marilyn Crispell in quietly exploratory improvised duets with clarinetist David Rothenberg (in his ECM debut). Rothenberg studied with Jimmy Giuffre and Joe Maneri, amongst others, is active as player-composer and also well known as an author and naturalist, his books including “Why Birds Sing” and “Thousand Mile Song” (an investigation of the music of whales), and the titles here reflect also on the natural world. Tracks include “The Hawk and the Mouse”, “Owl Moon” and “Still Life with Woodpeckers”.

Featured Artists Recorded

March 2008, Nevessa Production, Woodstock

Original Release Date


  • 1Invocation
    (David Rothenberg, Marilyn Crispell)
  • 2Tsering
    (David Rothenberg, Marilyn Crispell)
  • 3The Hawk And The Mouse
    (David Rothenberg, Marilyn Crispell)
  • 4Stay, Stray
    (David Rothenberg, Marilyn Crispell)
  • 5What Birds Sing
    (David Rothenberg, Marilyn Crispell)
  • 6Companion: Silence
    (David Rothenberg, Marilyn Crispell)
  • 7Owl Moon
    (David Rothenberg, Marilyn Crispell)
  • 8Still Life With Woodpeckers
    (David Rothenberg, Marilyn Crispell)
  • 9Grosbeak
    (David Rothenberg, Marilyn Crispell)
  • 10The Way Of The Pure Sound (for Joe Maneri)
    (David Rothenberg, Marilyn Crispell)
  • 11Motmot
    (David Rothenberg, Marilyn Crispell)
  • 12Snow Suddenly Stopping Without Notice
    (David Rothenberg, Marilyn Crispell)
  • 13Evocation
    (David Rothenberg, Marilyn Crispell)
Crispell’s credentials as a technically accomplished, controlled pianist are as well-established as her reputation for musical honesty. Her use of that soundboard never descends into gimmickry. She gets that grand’s innards sounding like a zither, kora or even a gong, but uses the effects sparingly. Her piano work is as clean and precise yet passionate as ever. … Rothenberg, a philosopher-naturalist… paces Crispell in whatever realms they chance upon. His work on both horns is fluent, full-toned, imbued with a strong structure. If these pieces were pre-composed they’d be categorised as chamber music of a high order. But, of course, it’s only jazz.
Barry Witherden, BBC Music Magazine
There is a constant pull between order and adventure, the lyrical and the intellectual, in this superb duo’s work. Put crudely, Crispell pushes the boundaries of sound more, while Rothenberg likes to fix on an idea and use it as a motif. It yields … moments of rare beauty.
Ray Comiskey, Irish Times
Crispell und Rothenberg zelebrieren auf den ersten zwei Dritteln ihrer Duo-Platte die wunderbarste Kommunion von Handwerk und Subtilität, reichen uns genau jenes Überlebensmittel, das wir nicht täglich, aber regelmäßig brauchen, um nicht zu verhungern und zu verdursten im Jammertal des Mittelmaßes.
Karl Bruckmaier, Süddeutsche Zeitung
Das Duo ist eine Idealbesetzung der Improvisation. Die Trägheit der Masse wird auf ein Minimum reduziert, es spielen zwei Menschen nur mit ihren Instrumenten und miteinander. … Marilyn Crispell und David Rothenberg haben gerade ihr erstes gemeinsames Duo-Album veröffentlicht, und sie fühlen sich offenbar wohl in dieser musikalischen Extremsituation. … Kein Ton zu viel, keine Sättigungsbeilagen, kein Füllmaterial. … Zwischen der lyrischen Konkretheit von Crispells pianistischen Anschlag und dem unwirklichen Sirren, das sie auf dem Soundboard erzeugt; zwischen dem federleichten, vollen Ton, den Rothenberg auf der Klarinette erzeugt, und den Schreien und Geräuschen, zu denen er sein Instrument überbläst… stellt sich die Balance zwischen Ruhe und Forschergeist ein, die im Zentrum dieser Musik steht.
Stefan Hentz, Die Zeit
Ein Duo-Album voller Raum, das an viele Assoziationsfelder der experimentellen Moderne anknüpft. Da findet sich dezent Dissonantes, das Spiel mit den Erzählebenen, feingliedrig Hingetupftes und vorsichtig Verfremdetes. Rothenbergs Bassklarinette tiriliert und jubiliert, gibt sich neumusikalisch abstrakt, dann wieder minimalistisch sanft. Crispell umkränzt diese Linien und Klangpunkte mit pianistischen Fragmenten, Andeutungen, mal kommentierend, mal impulsgebend.
Ralf Dombrowski, Jazzthing
“We brought some tunes to the session but the whole record ended up spontaneous and improvised. On a couple of pieces instead of piano Marilyn played an old beat-up piano soundboard wrenched out of an old baby grand several years before. We blew the dust off it and propped it a few feet off the floor, where it gave strange resonances as a giant percussion instrument. Marilyn said something about wanting to get away from the keyboard, more into the realm of pure sound.” David Rothenberg

“One Dark Night I Left My Silent House” (title borrowed from Peter Handke’s novel “In einer dunklen Nacht ging ich aus meinem stillen Haus”) is a duo recording given to quiet dialogue and sensitive creation of new music. It is improvising unafraid to stray outside the borders of ‘jazz’.

Crispell and clarinettist David Rothenberg have played concerts together (initially in trio with multi-instrumentalist Richard Nunns) since 2004, but the sound of Marilyn’s playing had been in Rothenberg’s mind much longer. Their first encounter had been distinctly unorthodox.

Rothenberg: “I first met Marilyn Crispell while I was asleep. Under a piano. It was at Karl Berger’s Creative Music Studio sometime in the early eighties. I woke up in the morning under the piano and heard this amazing music right over my head, and I sat silently and let the pianist go on. All I could see were her bare feet on the pedals. After a while she got up and walked away, and I saw her long flowing brown hair as she disappeared in silence... I never forgot those sounds, the intensity, the fluidity like a rushing waterfall. Over the years I followed her music and always wanted to hear more...

“We talked about doing this recording for several years, but we didn’t plan it out. Marilyn really doesn’t like to practice, perhaps because improvisation is best when the first, sudden encounters are recorded.” The album was finally recorded in March 2008 in Nevassa Studio in Woodstock. “We didn’t much discuss what we would do at this point,” says Rothenberg. “I know that in general I’m always thinking about how to balance the lyrical and the free, how to come out of some tradition but try to sound like something never heard before. It’s an easy conceit yet nearly impossible to realize. Two artists associated with ECM whom I once studied with helped me in this regard: from Jimmy Giuffre I learned to never be satisfied with my tone, that it could always be more resonant, always better conditioned with a pillow of air. From Joe Maneri I learned to smile, to laugh while trying anything daring and strange.”

“One Dark Night...” is Rothenberg’s debut for this label; an earlier release, “Whale Music” included contributions from two ECM aligned violinists, Nils Økland and Michelle Makarski. Amongst his other recordings is “Bangalore Wild”, a collaboration with the Karnataka College Of Percussion.

Rothenberg is also well-known as a philosopher/naturalist and the author of a number of books on man’s relationship to nature. His books include “Why Birds Sing”, on making music with birds, also published in England, Italy, Spain, Taiwan, China, Korea, and Germany. It was turned into a feature length BBC TV documentary. His most recent book, “Thousand Mile Song”, is on making music with whales. Other books include “Sudden Music”, “Blue Cliff Record”, “Hand’s End” and “Always the Mountains”. “Why Birds Sing” is available from Basic Books in the USA, Penguin in the UK, Springer in Germany, and Ponte alle Grazie in Italy. “Thousand Mile Song” is published by Basic Books in the USA and the UK.