Another Timbre

Michael Thieke: clarinet; Olivier Toulemonde: acoustic objects; Lucio Capece: bass clarinet and preparations; Jamie Drouin: analogue synthesizer and radio

A commentator should theoretically feel embarrassed by the act of writing on the first volume (dated 2013) of an ongoing program when that program has already arrived at the fifth chapter. But that’s the way it goes over here, unfortunately. In the last months, an increasing unspecific weariness has progressively amounted to a genuine hindrance for yours truly’s regular activities. “What I need to do”, the realization came, “is retuning ears and brain by dedicating quality time to authentically centered listening, without demands of blathering about what’s heard”. Tell it to someone else. In fact, this review is the proof that no disc materially spun which results of some interest will end its history in a disregarded corner of the archive. As far as this CD is concerned my mood was initially, and very incorrectly inclined towards a somewhat predetermined resignation given the diminishing fervor accompanying equivalent releases in recent times. Instead this music has inhabited the house for several days now; no sign of tiredness appeared in spite of all.

The Thieke/Toulemonde duo presents the largest assortment of facets and the more manifest kinetics, still keeping a number of sections dedicated to outspread parallelisms of timbres that may be harsher or milder, definitely willing to let a scrap between upper partials occur inside extremely close intervals, even at whispered level. If we put aside short spurts of slightly unglamorous tricks (say, burbling-and-hissing plus rotating-and-bouncing balls) and refer to the thing as an omni-comprehensive whole, then the 43 minutes can truly be gutted like fish, including clarinet pitches of variable innocence and an awful lot of metals clashing clangorously when not bowed one way or another. However, were this writer forced to explicit a predilection, that would go to the Capece/Drouin piece. This is exactly the type of exercise necessary to make a sensitive person’s hearing return to its customary shape, provided that no adulterating factors – extrinsic noises, frustrated humans – get in to obstruct a private improvement. The pairing of momentous synthetic waves and barely breathed (and yet, often mercilessly modified) reed fumes – comprising episodes of radio-induced misbehavior in potential turbulence – allows us to focus on them as instruments for a correct mental positioning in a consecutiveness of “presence” and “absence”. It would be pretty silly to just conceive the hypothesis of a detailed description of the acoustic events, if not in regard to the measure of healthy restitution warranted by chosen combinations.

In a word, this initial instalment of the Berlin Series stresses what’s perhaps the most crucial issue related to the “calmer” fringes of improvisation (and to relatively quiet music in general). Namely: granted the participants’ skillfulness, it’s not really what is played that determines the record’s “worth”; rather, it’s how the listeners manage to get attuned to the resulting sounds that might set them free from preconceptions – this writer’s case, for the occasion – or otherwise, force them to an unsought education typically culminating with inescapable distractions, with subsequent abandonment of the release to its destiny in favor of tangibly gratifying tasks. It’s the famous “nonchalantly-listening-while-doing-something-else” syndrome (recognizable symptom: an article narrating the artist’s entire life with two-lines-two concerning the record itself). Being aware of the inferior absorbing abilities and incredibly weakened attention spans of today’s audiences – narcotized by dishonest interactions on social networks that are gradually drowning them in a frightful blob of worldwide cheapness – a prayer is what remains. At least for those who consider anti-evolutive behavioral patterns useful for quietening their psyche.

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