Tom Hamilton’s electronic microcosms are mainly envisaged for synergies with actual performers, as effectively explained by this excerpt from a 2010 article by Frank J. Oteri in New Music Box: “In my visits to the museum to listen to my piece, I always hoped that someone would spontaneously walk into the gallery with an instrument and start playing along.” To the discontent of no one, City Of Vorticity presents half an hour of such a setting – with improvisations by Al Margolis, Alan Zimmerman and Peter Zummo on a restricted yet varied assortment of instruments – in conjunction with another track of equal length leaving us in the exclusive company of Hamilton’s pliable entities. There is much to take delight from in both cases.
The swiftness of individual reaction to a patchwork of ever-changing impulses is fundamental in tracing a course across unsettled environments. Margolis reveals himself to be a wicked violinist, a vigorously dissonant style replete with raspy spasms and heterogeneous pitches. Zimmerman anticipates the machine’s will sometimes, his percussive intuitions embedded within hundreds of micro-events. Zummo appears as the sage of the trio, studying the surroundings to place his emissions calmly and precisely. It’s a lesson in active listening, directly from the players to the audience. However, Hamilton’s brilliance as a generator of mind-enhancing sonorities is attested by the second part which – besides its potential utilization for live musicians – keeps the “home alone” factor in high consideration. This particular version requires an adequate inner disposition to let the music grow inside but, on the long distance, the beneficial effect of unpredictable dynamics, glowing reflections and extended stretches of nerve-calming stillness is warranted. Whiffs of disguised humor are also detected on occasion: like attending the clinic of a renowned scientist who, with a wry smile, confesses that all those important discoveries and profound theories are just the fruit of fantasy. We would smile back at him, no question.