Friday, 5 April 2013

Arnold Dreyblatt - 'The Sound of One String' (Table of the Elements)

It's not every day that a composer releases an Incesticide, to refer to that Nirvana collection yet again. The Sound of One String serves two purposes - it can function as an introduction to Dreyblatt's work, presented chronologically - while also collecting rarities for the fans. There's some familiar pieces here - 'Nodal Excitation' appears twice, in different forms, including an early solo performance from 1979. And there's a live version of 'Propellers in Love' which is a bit brighter than the studio version. Live recordings of Dreyblatt are great because you can really get a sense of the room, depending on the recording - on the more spare moments, like the aforementioned solo 'Nodal Excitation', you get a bit of room noise and while it's maybe not the most accurate way to reproduce the very specific frequencies, it's a wonderful document of 'being there' that only brilliant sound recordings can convey. By the time this version of 'Propellers' ends, the whole disc has been an ecstatic bit of buzzing beauty. And 'Damping Influence', a more subdued piece, works well to bring down the energy, with it's toy piano cutting through like a bizarre gamelan. And things start to pick themselves up again here, building up towards the steady electric-guitar drone of 'End Correction' and then 'Music for Small String Orchestra', a stunning experiment with traditional instrumentation. It's still just-intonated, of course, and changes slowly from overtone to overtone, and feels like an epic drone composition - like a more austere Lou Harrison, perhaps. The whole disc (and it's a packed 79 minutes) ends with 'Dirge Relations', which looks ahead to the sound and lineup of Animal Magnetism. This does that slow 'walking' thing that is all over Animal Magnetism, suggestion a modular music that is nonetheless cohesive. I admit I haven't kept up with what Dreyblatt has been doing for the past 20 years or so, which is a shame because I love his music this much. Such an reinvention of acoustic instruments doesn't feel dated at all, even though some of these tracks are 34 years old; for this listener, at least, it's a direction for further exploration.

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