In my desperately insufficient erudition, the sum of “bassoon” and “woman” gave “Lindsay Cooper” as the most likely result until three days ago, when – while rummaging across the piles of promos received in 2018 – I retrieved this 2-CD set by Leslie Ross. Haven’t been listening to anything alternative since. More than the trademark biography-in-pills used by the official specialists to fill half of a writeup, let me urge you to check this article to understand the kind of creative individual we’re dealing with. An instrument builder, inventor and skilled player who lives surrounded by canaries and cats, and produces valhallas of tones, microtones and illusory tones from a single source. What’s not to like?
A resort for brains who don’t content themselves with shabby explanations, Drop By Drop, Suddenly comprises tracks of length varying from 5’13” to 27’37”. An attentive look at the program reveals that the pieces are ordered from shortest to longest, as if Ross wished to take the hand of the listeners to gradually immerse them into oceanic clusters to reach mental emptiness. We also noticed that the harshness deriving from certain pitch contiguities tends to decline (not always!) with the temporal extension. What Ross is telling us – perhaps without realizing – is that every apparent strain can be alleviated or, at the very least, considered under different perspectives with the acquisition of fundamental psychoacoustic data. Especially when lulled by such a concentration of upper partials, occasionally suggesting fragments of near-immobile melody (“Closed Circuit, A Pastoral”) or simply lifting us from the chair (“Water”).
Amazingly, everything heard occurs in real time. Even when veritable legions of bassoons (and relative key clicks, and whatever else one can hear, including the aforementioned birds) are perceived in the stereo field. It’s all born from an expert positioning of the microphones – Ross amplifies the unthinkable, besides the “normal” – and loops, natural or less: what do we know, poor guitarists deprived of the chance of circular breathing? The aim of the composer – subjecting the audience to a feeling close to the vibrational totality experienced by the performer – is achieved in full. Equally notable is the cross of inner stability and disregard of corporeal issues generated by the superimpositions; but we’re on Phill Niblock’s label, therefore we were expecting it, in a way.
And so, another case of droning wonderment. However – trust this madman – that’s just the beginning of an utterly enriching voyage. Sometimes being a canary implies receiving incredible rewards.