Exposé Online banner

Adam Rudolph — Morphic Resonances
(META 021, 2017, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2017-12-02

Morphic Resonances Cover art

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.


Filed under: New releases, 2017 releases

Related artist(s): Adam Rudolph / Moving Pictures / Go: Organic Orchestra

More info
http://www.metarecords.com/morphic.html

Latest news

2017-11-16
Celebrate 10 Years of Fruits de Mer – As a special celebration for a decade of cool vinyl releases, our friends at Fruits de Mer records have prepared a limited edition reissue of an album by the first band ever to appear on the label: Schizo Fun Addict. The band is known for unusual release strag » Read more

2017-11-02
Mega Dodo Presents New Charity Album – Our friends at Mega Dodo have put together a lovely compilation of their artists performing new arrangements of nursery rhymes, and all the profits from sales of the album will benefit Save the Children. It features a number of artists we've covered. » Read more

2017-10-18
Phil Miller RIP – Sad word reaches us today of the passing of another of the great musicians of the Canterbury Scene — guitarist Phil Miller. His distinctive sound added greatly to Matching Mole, Hatfield and the North, and National Health, and he also contributed to albums by Caravan, Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin, and many others. He was 68. » Read more

2017-10-13
Moonjune to Distribute Tony Levin's Back Catalog – It has been announced that Moonjune will now handle distribution for Tony Levin's catalog of releases. These great albums will now be a bit easier to get hold of, so check out the site and see what you're missing. The veteran of King Crimson and Stick Men worked with a host of great players on these albums, and we've reviewed most of them over the course of the years. » Read more

2017-09-26
Bandcamp Shines Light on Niches We Like – Bandcamp has developed into one of the best places to discover new music, and even a lot of old music is showing up there. In addition, their staff has been producing periodic articles spotlighting some interesting stylistic areas. On 20 September, they published one called "The New Face of Prog Rock" which bears checking out. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Barclay James Harvest - Time Honoured Ghosts – After leaving the Harvest label, BJH met up with U.S. Producer Eliot Mazer (Neil Young) who recorded the band in San Francisco in the summer of 1975. The quartet was on the upswing with bassist Les...  (2005) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues