In 1981 Christopher Roberts travelled to Papua New Guinea “to study the natural prosody of music”. The strong reciprocal empathy led to a multitude of exchanges, the natives introduced to an hitherto unknown instrument, the visitor ensnared by their songs, rituals and atmospheres. During a subsequent dream, he was moving the bow “across the strings of the bass in an entirely new way that recreated the drums, and the hornbills’ wings, and the voices of the people whose every song tells a story”.
The gestures that Roberts had envisioned – later translated into a score for three double basses (himself plus Mark Morton and James Bergman) – are now audible in this beautiful CD, enriched by copious doses of substance in a relatively short extent (less than 35 minutes). There are many aspects that transform the listening practice in a rewardingly self-collecting session. For example, the stunning tone of the main voice – already a favourite of mine – which in this particular case is refracted and projected by the very deployment of the parts that the composer designed. A distinct serenity, deriving by the power of the memories rooted in the mind of the man who actually lived the initial experience, permeates the spirit of this music. Yet we also detect mournfulness, like a nostalgic remembrance of something that has struck hard and deep and can’t possibly be brought back.
Although the character of the pieces is prevalently tonal, there’s nary a moment of dullness in the whole album. This is one of those records who seem to symbolize the thankfulness to a superior entity, permeated as it is of engrossing appreciation for a unique opportunity to share the purest values of human brotherhood, an over-and-done concept nowadays. Luckily, the notes remain – and they’re outright magnificent.