Monday, November 05, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Strings and Strings

Elliott Sharp/Sirius String Quartet: Dispersion of Seeds. 2003. zOaR: ZPO-03.

Elliott Sharp: composer, computer
Sirius String Quartet:
Meg Okura: violin
Gregor Huebner: violin
Ron Lawrence: viola
David Eggar: cello

In his characteristically terse liner notes Elliott Sharp writes:

Dispersion of Seeds takes its title from the recently discovered natural history work from 1862 by Henry David Thoreau dealing with the mechanism of reforestation and the propagation of plant tree species, a ripe metaphor for the possibility of positive memes thriving and spreading in a time of crass stupidity, fear, and militarism.
As a string quartet, this piece features austere and dissonant textures that take root in the acoustic "first movement" before propagating through electronic processing and augmentation in the second and third realizations of the same piece. As a multi-movement experience - with the option of regarding each movement as a modular part of the whole - I find the fixed duration of each portion unsettling in its exactness. As a musical experience I find the individual textures and variance irresistible. The duality of optimism of positive memes against the persistent (and well founded) pessimism of contemporary socio-political realities finds resonance in the sustained tension of this music.

Terry Riley/Kronos Quartet: Cadenza On The Night Plain. 1984. Gramavision: R2 79444.

Terry Riley: composer
Kronos Quartet:
David Harrington: violin
John Sherba: violin
Hank Dutt: viola
Joan Jeanrenaud: cello

Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector
G Song
Mythic Birds Waltz
Cadenza on the Night Plain

This recording is a definitive part of the HurdAudio sensibility as listening to the deeply familiar nuances of this performance is like visiting an old friend. Terry Riley manages to make the narrative form of Cadenza on the Night Plain work as he transforms the string quartet into a medium of wordless story telling. There's an unusual balance of elements that stitch this musical yarn from the introspective yearning of "Where Was Wisdom When We Went West?" to the whimsical "March of the Old Timers Reefer Division." The individual cadenzas for each performer are amazing and Riley doesn't get nearly the credit he deserves for his talent for arranging.

Nels Cline/Elliott Sharp: Duo Milano. 2007. Long Song Records: LSRCD103/2007.

Nels Cline: guitars
Elliott Sharp: guitars

There's an impressive single-mindedness to this music as the improvisational sensibilities of Cline and Sharp overlap to the point of amplifying one another's sound. Divided into a set of five acoustic guitar improvisations and a set of five electric guitar explorations the acoustic set expands upon the thorny language Sharp has developed for this instrument with Cline matching his sound with eerie resonance. In the electric sets the gravity feels reversed as Sharp is pulled slightly closer to Cline's sensibilities and the durations swell toward longer noise studies. Filled with multiple shades of ugly beauty, this exchange of creative energy makes for a rewarding listening experience.

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