Let me start with a mildly amusing personal note. A while back I was informed about a label refusing to share this review due to its first paragraph, and calling this reporter a “misogynist” for the same reason. Evidently, the attempt to differentiate “valuable” and “forgettable” is not appreciated in places where aurally comfortable trendy-ish detritus prevails over genuine substance, regardless of the creative entity’s sex. To be perfectly clear, what I look for in music produced by non-male human beings is the compound of intelligence, intensity, scientificity and open-mindedness defining high-caliber artists of both genders, and in-between. Eliane Radigue, Meredith Monk, Lindsay Cooper, Iréne Schweizer, Jöelle Léandre represent a small fraction of this chauvinist writer’s non-male heroes, all of them embodying the aforementioned mix of talents in diverse ways.
In recent times, the restricted circle of legitimate sonic research has welcomed Sarah Weaver. A Pauline Oliveros student, and a tireless advocate of long-distance, multi-level interplay, Weaver devises her output by flawlessly integrating cosmic components – not just in purely speculative fashion, as we’ll see later – with an expressive pluralism which fuses the energies of instrumentalists communicating across the world, via telematic networks or else.
This double CD will not delight the aficionados of stereotyped consonance leading to the nowhere of evolution. Still, the meanings and implications that it comprises travel far beyond the mere aesthetic appearance of a sizable chunk of today’s artificial alternatives. On the other hand, all it takes is reading the list of participants, rightly credited for their inventive contributions to the scores. Endowed performers such as Joe McPhee – his pocket trumpet dueting with Weaver’s voice in “Sound In Peace” – Mark Dresser, Ming Xiao-Fen, Robert Dick, Ned Rothenberg (only to name a few) would not lend themselves to operations carried out by a less than serious composer. The exceptionality of the results is tangible, provided that quality time for proactive listening is set aside.
No doubt whatsoever exists on the multiplicity of ideas, foresights and solutions offered by Weaver to render a proficient audience aware of a thorough acoustic divergence. The opening “Node 111” features the solitary brilliance of drummer Gerry Hemingway, who complements the score with astounding mastery as he illustrates parallel developments of dynamics and resonance. Weaver’s electronics interact with trombonist David Taylor’s bass trombone in “Symmetry Of Presence”, a track that closely resembles a pure free-improvisation duo with added doses of athematic quirkiness.
Intricate (or less) structures generated by the players are sculpted and remodeled in collective pieces typified by an admirable balance between pre-conceived parts and well-behaved freedom. “Interhere” juxtaposes uneasy meditation and sudden drama, vaguely recalling a Butch Morris conduction interspersed with liberated outbursts à la Centipede’s Septober Energy, kinetic vigor equaling the beauty of spontaneous organization.
However, the core of Weaver’s quest is obviously symbolized by “Universal Synchrony Music: Kepler/K2”: over 53 minutes of electroacoustic correspondence by musicians situated in different geographic locations, providing the brain with repeated rhythmic, timbral and – why not – stylistic shifts in a context of systematic textural transmutation. Synthesizing a massive interpenetration of temporal planes, heterogeneous signals and assorted indescribable elements into a lexicon understandable by the League Of The Vibrationally Impaired would be utterly silly, thus I’ll use a portion of Weaver’s explanation: “(…) Data elements that have been sonified are star and planet light curves, phase curves, surface gravity, insolation, magnitude, radius, temperature, celestial coordinates, period, transit depth, transit duration, solar planet ratio, distance from Earth, and orbital alignments with Earth. The resultant synchrony of the piece is realized through synthesis of presence with these deep space systems, representations and intuitive transmissions of inherent synchronies, along with metaphorical realizations”. I’m not sure of the average individual’s ability to implicitly absorb all of the above during the piece in question; the much-quoted “divine perfection” implied by selected numerological theories – often referring to the “seven notes” as the foundation of a hypothetical extramundane euphony – becomes a risible verbal/mental shelter for one’s inability to engage in the endlessly vibrant conglomerate that surrounds us.
As ignorance pushes the desperate towards abstruse terminologies of total futility, apparent dissonance inevitably flows into self-relinquishment. Sarah Weaver knows better, her intuition already decoding messages from a pulsating perpetuity deprived of arrogant conjectural illogicality.