Published Mar 23, 2016The magnificent viola of Jordan Dykstra is being explored again, thanks to a full-length album called Stressings. Due out April 1 via Editions Verde, Dykstra composed the album entirely for acoustic viola, exploring "textures through the liminality of the viola, what psychoanalysts view at the moment of extreme behaviour changes, the historical story told by layers of rock and sediment, and, amongst others, how painstakingly obvious a sunset can be."
In advance of the release, Dykstra has now shared the video for "I'm Not a Horse Person, Dog (Accretion)" with Exclaim! The track has a kind of Krzysztof Penderecki vibe, with a rising, droning dissonance spread across 68 violas for its 20-minute runtime. The video matches its steady pace, a 360-degree pan filmed in one take at an old airport in Berlin that's been converted into a public park, which currently houses thousands of Syrian refugees.
Dykstra had this to say about the music:
"I'm Not a Horse Person, Dog (Accretion)" is the second piece on Stressings and was conceived of on a plane ride back to Los Angeles after attending a Charlemagne Palestine performance of 'Schlingen-Blängen' in Portland, OR. The performance was truly magical, and Charlemagne had his divinities and made a little shrine for them, drank cognac, and played for a very long time on this wonderful circular Casavant pipe organ. There was so many shimmery overtones that aligned in long cycles and pulsated and beat in really complex ways. Throughout the piece he slowly built and deconstructed this massive and dense cluster chord.
Later I graphed the form from memory, stretched it, added my own parameters for time and pitch, using mainly cent deviations. Even though INAHPD began (and as many of my compositions have lately) as a graphic, for this piece I really wanted to explore the liminality of the viola's register from the middle out. It was during this exploration that I ended up using a lot of microtonality, especially quarter-tones, sixth-tones, and the JI ratios of 2/1, 4/3, 5/4, and 9/8.
When I first played it for my friend Michael Pisaro I told him that I hoped he didn't find offence in the latter section of the piece because I likened the sound to a chorus of dying donkeys or horses (achieved by an overpressure bowing technique that brings out a lot of the guttural qualities of the viola) to which he replied, "Luckily I'm not a horse person."
Experience the song and its visuals below.