Published Oct 29, 2013The best sound from an evening at the symphony often occurs early on, as the ensemble tunes up. The mass of musicians focused upon a single A-natural at roughly 440 hertz can be a lush sonic experience, with the chorusing of detuned instruments finding their place within the overall sound.
This is the sonic space of Phill Niblock, the materials that form his aesthetic of drones stretched out along superimposed microtones and the psychoacoustic phenomena of a gradually shifting harmonic field. The Touch label's fifth addition to their series featuring large-scale compositions by the octogenarian composer proves to be an excellent opportunity to hear the details contained within these works of staggering beauty and stasis.
The first disc of Touch Five consists of "FeedCorn Ear" and "A Cage of Stars," two pieces that feature the subtle digital manipulations of recorded acoustic instruments to form a rich drone. These works shimmer with the rich timbral nuances of their source materials. They sound orchestral in scope while retaining their singular fixation on that "tuning up" sound. The extended duration allows the ears to luxuriate within the beauty of harmony as a co-existence of slowly drifting frequencies.
The second disc offers up three different interpretations of "Two Lips" as performed by three different guitar quartets. The orchestral intent of this composition comes across even if the timbral quality of electric guitars introduces a strained brittleness not found on the first disc. Ears are drawn to the gradual processes at work as harmonic elements slowly rise and fall, stretching the concept of harmonic progression to a logical breaking point. (Touch)