Okkyung Lee: cello, pick-up microphone
Why necessarily expressing complexity in long durations? With this piece – lasting 16-plus minutes – Okkyung Lee finds a way to substantiate a radical synthesis of sorts, a sound world containing practically everything as two major forces – that of periodic acoustic exhalation and knotty phraseology – fight one another, ultimately giving life to awesome artistic implications.
Overdubbing parts is a rather uncharacteristic process (though not altogether new) for an unrestrained improvising fury such as Lee’s. Nevertheless, the reiterative structures constituting the essence of 57 Answers are as threateningly fascinating as a pre-storm sky in their husky reconfiguration of the cello’s lower frequencies. In the first half, a thrumming pulse underlies a series of intricate evolutions in the acute register, screeching pitches and sulfurous upper partials producing the same sparkles of a chainsaw blade hitting a metal sheet. Following a somewhat cryptic section in which the instrument’s timbre gets literally vivisected, revealing hundreds of gritty hues and crepitating noises, the last part explodes in a loud chorale of growling drones swinging violently like a crazy pendulum until no more energy remains.
Sparse arco whispers conclude the action, but something still lies underneath the apparent placidity. We’re left with a persisting sense of precariousness: think of a horror movie’s finale where, just before the end titles, the killer’s scarred face is smiling wryly after everybody was thinking that he had been destroyed.
Auditory continuance is a must, loudness (and, if possible, a sub-woofer) too.