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
Alex's Hand Seeks Spa Treatment – American / European band Alex's Hand has a new album in the works called Hungarian Spa, which looks to be their biggest and best yet, featuring a large roster of guest musicians. They're seeking funding to take the project on the road, and are looking for help from the crowd of wisdom. » Read more
Legendary Co-Founder of The 13th Floor Elevators Passes Away at Age 71 – Sadly, Roky Erickson passed away on May 31, 2019. Known as the father of psychedelic music and co-founder of the ground breaking 13th Floor Elevators, Roky had a profound influence on music from the 60s to today. Plagued by his own personal demons, Roky had a difficult life and is now free of these burdens. » Read more
Help MoonJune Bring Great Music to Life – Like many music lovers around the world, we’ve been thrilled and amazed to hear the recordings that have been released by MoonJune from sessions at La Casa Murada in Spain. Such label stalwarts as Mark Wingfield, Markus Reuter, Asaf Sirkis, Tony Levin, Dusan Jevtovic, Vasil Hadzimanov, and many more have gathered in various combinations at the studio to produce some of the most creative music in recent years. Now, label head Leonardo Pavkovic is offering a compilation, La Casa Murada - MoonJune Sessions, Volume One, as a fundraiser for upcoming sessions. » Read more
The Pineapple Thief to Tour North America – November and December of 2019 will see The Pineapple Thief bringing their music to Canada, Mexico, and the US, and famed drummer Gavin Harrison will be on board. The band has been touring extensively in Europe, but North America will be new territory for them. » Read more
Scott Walker RIP – Noel Scott Engel, better known as Scott Walker, was one of the most intriguing and enigmatic musical figures in the second half of the 20th Century. His strange career started with The Walker Brothers, an American pop group that featured no one named Walker and no brothers. After moving to England in 1965, they had a series of hit singles. Scott's solo work started with Scott in 1967. Starting in the 80s, his work took an increasingly avant-garde turn. » Read more