Harbors is an entity on which Ellen Fullman (long string instrument) and Theresa Wong (cello) worked for years in varying live settings before putting it on record. It requires nothing but being genuinely involved, joining the experience in psychophysical completeness. It’s not the kind of recording where one elects to “list” the unfolding events, although this is feasible. Rather, a tangible illustration of the potential of vibrating strings to remove what is superfluous, possibly harmful, from a brain overburdened with illusions and anxieties engendered by the grandiloquence of the self.
The first and longest segment immediately discloses the impressive cohesion of the elements. Fullman and Wong find answers to the questions posed by the room they’re playing in without any preconception, just confident in the propagating reverberation filling the rational gap in the best possible way. Certain traits are remotely reminiscent of Stephen Scott’s exploitation of piano innards (circa Minerva’s Web), the duo’s consciousness hovering over continuous harmonic shifts and fluctuating dimensionalities. The alliance between the upper partials of Wong’s cello and Fullman’s extended drones creates an impossible-to-detail polyphony, partly nourished by the poco cantabile linearity of some of its components. In the end we hear the whole oscillating in peculiar fashion, sort of an alien lullaby vanishing into nothingness.
As the second movement begins, the cello greets us with distinct glissandi in the lower regions of the tone gamut; imagine the skin of a large drum artfully pressed when hit in order to alter intensity and pitch. Diverse dynamics are produced by plucking the strings and, in Wong’s case, using the bow for brief arpeggiated outbursts. The mood is somewhat uncertain but there is never any doubt about the persistence of an insightful reciprocation inside the sympathetic environment. The third part confirms and synthesizes the nuances of previously investigated acoustic spaces: the might of strident pseudo-staticity, the parallelism of auricular reactions and absolute calmness, the spontaneous blossoming of outstanding contrapuntal flowers. Having reached this point, experienced listeners no longer need to ask what is going on. They have already understood, quivering cores acknowledging the Sound.