Adam Rudolph — Morphic Resonances
(META 021, 2017, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2017-12-02
With Morphic Resonances, percussionist Adam Rudolph presents a collection of music composed for various small ensembles, none of which fits in with what might be thought of as his primary niche, world-influenced jazz. But he is a deep thinker about music and the processes of creating it, and here he applies his ideas in a different realm than we’ve heard before. We start out with two pieces written for the Momenta String Quartet, and while the theoretical ideas may come from a different place, the general impression is similar to 20th Century quartets like those of Anton Webern and Arnold Schoenberg. The music is rhythmically and harmonically complex, largely based on scales other than the standard modes of European music theory, some of which is explained in the liner notes, though not in great detail. There are frequently passages where the individual parts are playing in contrasting rhythms. As a listener, you can just take it in, and while it’s not the kind of string quartet music that sucks you in with memorable melodies, it presents an impressionistic journey, with some sections of frenetic pizzicato notes, some eerie passages with harmonics and glissandos, and times of relative calm where interlocking patterns fall into hypnotic cascades of notes. While I’m no expert on modern string quartet music, I find these two pieces as interesting and challenging as any I’ve heard, and would love to see them enter the repertoire for other groups to play. Momenta’s performance is outstanding, attacking the difficult material with energy and feeling.
“Garden, Ashes” is one of two pieces written for flute and acoustic guitar, an evocative and virtuosic exploration of harmonic and rhythmic possibilities. It’s performed by Kaoru Watanabe and Marco Cappelli, and Watanabe’s flute cadenza towards the end is a cathartic outpouring of notes. The next piece is a short violin solo played by Sana Nagano, whom I had previously encountered in a trio with Harvey Valdes. Her playing is fluid and emotional, seemingly effortless in spite of the difficult material. While a percussion quartet might seem a natural venue for a composer who’s a percussionist, there is quite a lot of difference between the improvisational world of jazz and world music and the composed realm of orchestral percussion. But rhythms are rhythms, whether they’re written down or generated in the moment, and it’s revealing to hear the principles of Cyclic Verticalism applied in a pristine form. Vibraphone is the only tonal instrument, and it’s joined by an assortment of tom toms, cymbals, gongs, snare, and other things. The result is far from academic, and also far from a percussion jam, with a section in the middle where the tempo floats subtly, eventually giving way to a part with the spotlight on the snare while the others maintain a 27-beat ostinato (there’s a page of the score in the booklet — I didn’t analyze it myself). This kind of percussion music is fascinating, and I could listen to much more of it. (You can watch a different group perform it here.)
The final two pieces are both relatively short. “Coincidentia Oppositorium” features an eight member ensemble of piano, cello, trombone, violin, clarinet, trumpet, double bass, percussion, voice, and musical saw (with some musicians doubling up). In some ways, it is the piece that most resembles jazz, but it uses many of the same types of compositional techniques that were used in the string quartets. In its four minutes, there are bursts of chaos, moody quiet sections of wordless vocals, and a mournful violin melody. Finishing off the set is the other guitar and flute piece. On “Lamento,” Watanabe plays a nohkan flute, for a natural, mournful sound, and Cappelli engages in a number of unusual techniques on the guitar. It is a meditative and calming finish to an impressive body of music.
Related artist(s): Adam Rudolph / Moving Pictures / Go: Organic Orchestra
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From the press release:
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water takes from Echo Us' past and spins it into a whole new direction, one closer to traditional acoustic Celtic music than ever before.
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water was composed and recorded during the first few months of 2017. Although Celtic influenced and comprised of a number of re-workings of Irish folk tunes and Breton aires, the album is still in large part new and original Echo Us music that fits right in the Echo Us ‘canon’. “Wake” is a natural progression from “A Priori Memoriae”, which was released to critical acclaim in Europe in 2014.
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water is Echo Us’ ‘Celtic’ album that was planned for a long time but never executed because of the work on the trilogy that came before it. The album title is a typical ‘Echo Us’ play on words which one can find their own meaning.
“It is also both evocative of the Oregon rain, which I am told is not too unlike the rain in Ireland.”(Matthews)
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water is also a comment on conception- which was unintentional when the lyric was written. Matthews surprised himself a few months after writing it, realizing that the song was actually about the nitty gritty, biological workings of what happens when a child is conceived. The folk song it derives from musically describes a courting ritual, one that even today we can all relate to in our own way.
“Come With Me Over the Mountain" in acapella was the musical inspiration for the song, and came into my consciousness after the lyrics were written a few months prior. “ (Matthews)
As with all Echo Us recordings, a number of seeming coincidences resulted in connections being drawn where prior there were none. Another experience of similar capacity was found in oboe samples from A Priori Memoriae that echoed the traditional “May Morning Dew’, also reworked for guitar on the new album.