Rhodri Davies

Transversal Time
Confront core series/core 11

Carl Testa

Sway Prototypes - Volume 3

No Label No #

Musical programs intermingling live electronic processing with real time acoustic playing make up the cores of these decisive sessions. With the correct symmetry intact, length and approach turn out to be secondary to the intensity and clarity of mixing processed and human tones. A commissioned work, the 38-minute Transversal Time was created by Welsh harpist Rhodri Davies as part of his intermittent investigation of electro-acoustic sounds and is played by a selected nonet, including the composer. Also featuring composer Carl Testa on double bass and electronics, the other CD is the newest iteration in a decade-and-a-half application of the Sway live electronic processing system. Each of the two tracks are longer than Davies’ composition, with one performed by a quintet and the other a sextet with vocalist Anne Rhodes and Testa the only overlapping elements.

Known for his improvisational work with among others, John Butcher and Burkhard Beins, the murmuring tones and harmonized timbres created by Davies shift and shake from concentrated drones to unmistakable vamps from cellist Lucy Railton and the dense, sometimes ferocious pitches of bassoonist Dafne Vicente-Sandoval and contrabass recorder player Pia Palme. A key leitmotoif is harmonies produced by the warbles and chirps of vocalist Sofia Jernberg, while intersectional string pinches come from Davies’ pedal harp and electric harp, Sarah Hughes’s zither, the cello and the internal strings of Pat Thomas’s piano. Meanwhile the pulses and delays which underlie the pressurized exposition echo from Thomas, Davies, Ryoko Akama and Adam Parkinson’s programming. As the piece evolves languidly, some of the climatic sequences involve contrasts between vocalized yelps and chortles and the pressurized reed, Davies creating a steel-drum-like echo from the electric harp, and inner-piano string shudders. Programmed crackles and shudders juddering alongside Jernberg’s otherwise unaccompanied sighs and whistles, make up one sequence which confirms the equilibrium between (wo) man and machine. During the final section shifting oscillations and pitch variance cement into a near opaque drone with infrequent reed buzzes and yodels faintly heard until vocalized trills signal the completed sequence.

Embedded within different ensembles, Rhodes’ voice is challenged by the tonal qualities of each ensemble. On “Shroud”, her non-programmed accompaniment consists of contrabass clarinetist Alejandro T. Acierto, saxophonist/clarinetist Aaron Getsug, violinist Hanna Brock and Testa. On “Midst” backing is from trumpeter Louis Guarino Jr., violinist Erica Dicker, cellist Junko Fujiwara vibraphonist Andria Nicodemou and Testa. Meanwhile Sway tracks each musician’s amplitude, density, and pitch clarity with is rapid, responsive, real-time parameters effecting changes. Less complicated and calculating in practice than retelling, the improvisational process ties in with the bassist’s playing experience with such mercurial sound explorers as Anthony Braxton and Tyshawn Sorey. Shades of squeaky Old Timey fiddling, double bass swing pulsations and stretched reed trills create a dissident counterpoint to the vocalist’s bel canto styling at the top of “Shroud”. Yet very shortly afterwards the sequence is mutated into mismatched motifs and sound shards that vibrate every which way until breathy tenor saxophone riffs introduces reed harmonies, seconded by equivalent processed timbres from the same source. More challenges are set up between cooing or whimpering vocalese and a crescendo of strained bow stopping and scrubbing from Testa and Brock, as horn lines vibrate around both. Finally Rhodes’ high-pitched lyrical vibrations are pushed aside by cross-cutting horn squeaks fattened with Sway’s quadrant programming of twitters, buzzes and whistles that squeeze into a complete electronic interface by the end.

With different personnel, the even lengthier “Midst” plays up slippery vibraphone resonations and choked valve effects from the trumpet that oscillate from the middle of the arrangement to shake alongside spiccato strings and hissing electronics. These same sound shards alternate with Rhodes’ lyrical warbling, as the same time as vibe and double bass echoes move the resulting clamor into near silence. Pressurized string sweeps expressively push the second sequence brightly vertically and decisively horizontally, with an additional noise parameters created with delay and feedback. These atom-sized disturbances evolve alongside pentimento suggestions of earlier timbres finally dissolve into near silence. Animated again with a final sequence of plunger trumpet slurs, violin string crackles vibe pitter-patter and double bass thumps, wordless vocalizing at different pitches sweep the narrative to the finale, but not before electronic buzzes and col legno echoes are audible.

The programs of each of these configurations are equally captivating as processed and acoustic parameters shift and mutate throughout. In addition, the collection of sonic surprises encompassed in each makes tracking the changes an engrossing experience.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Transversal: 1. Transversal Time

Personnel: Transversal: Pia Palme (contrabass recorder); Dafne Vicente-Sandoval (bassoon); Pat Thomas (piano, electronics); Lucy Railton (cello); Sarah Hughes (zither); Rhodri Davies (pedal harp, electric harp); Ryoko Akama (electronics); Adam Parkinson (programming); Sofia Jernberg (vocals)

Track Listing: Sway: 1. Shroud# 2, Mist*

Personnel: Sway: Louis Guarino Jr. (trumpet)*; Alejandro T, Acierto (contrabass clarinet) #; Aaron Getsug (soprano, tenor saxophones, clarinet) #; Hanna Buck# or Erica Dicker* (violin); Junko Fujiwara (cello)*; Andria Nicodemou (vibraphone)*; Carl Testa (bass, electronics); Anne Rhodes (voice)