Just intonation is a tricky matter for the ears of the common hearer. Decades of regarding the equal temperament as the holy book for a presumed “harmony” are not easy to delete. Recognizing it as a “reduced possibility” model (as it indeed is, past masterpieces notwithstanding) is next to impossible. Mathematical explanations of just intonation are readily consultable on the web, thus we will not reproduce them here. The impact of a composition based on this approach may vary: some recipients will feel they have reached heaven, others less blessed by mother nature are likely to disparage “out of tune” performers, in agreement with severely limited perceptive apparata.
With Rag’sma, composer and violinist Christopher Otto – founding member of the JACK Quartet, also comprising Austin Wulliman (violin), John Pickford Richards (viola) and Jay Campbell (cello) – has attained an outstanding result as far as sheer aural reward is concerned, assuming the listener is in possession of sufficient depth of analysis of the acoustic spectrum. Three extended movements in which one’s encircled by harmonics mingling in an uncustomary manner. The upper partials impressively ricochet across the room, according to the ebb and flow of a contemplative executional dynamic inhabited by the instrumentalists without a hint of edginess. Minimalism in the strictest acceptation, you might hypothesize, albeit the overall sonic physiognomy tends more to “cathedral resonance” than “reductionism”.
The overtones keep gliding gorgeously throughout the set, conjuring up faraway traces of Phill Niblock and Stephen Scott, perhaps in a peculiar mnemonic mélange with the Brian Eno of “Fullness Of Wind” (on Discreet Music, for the few stray cats who don’t know what we’re talking about). Stating that this creation is nonetheless one of a kind is not wrong: inscrutable at times, appeasing elsewhere, devoid of opportunities for a truly meaningful verbal portrayal. Otto’s astute remarks in the liners do help, though; take a look and learn, including the title’s meaning. In any case, a confirmation for individuals who don’t show off their sorrows. Or, merely the corroboration – through an unconventional harmonic pathway – of a developmental divergence only explicable via the nuances of awareness that a given subject is able to pick up and appraise.
In simpler terms: a magnificent work, to be played loud from a pair of quality speakers. All day long.