Scattered throughout the score for Jessica Pavone Lull are instructions to âchoose an independent tempoâ and âtoggle freelyâ between the defined pitches. Time stamps guide each player between sections of spontaneously interpreted notes or drones; at other times, players are asked to listen to a specific performer for a given tempo or tonal center. The work of the violist is difficult to categorize; recently she has composed primarily for orchestral instruments, especially chamber ensembles, but these types of directions in her scores hint at her background in jazz and free improvisation. Pavone has released numerous albums with guitarist Mary Halvorson and recorded extensively with avant-garde jazz icon Anthony Braxton, who is just beginning to scratch the surface of his involvement in New York’s creative music scene during of the last fifteen years. Yet Pavone’s music, often composed of slowly undulating tones sustained and modulated over long durations, strikes the ear much differently than the chaotic ecstasy of free jazz. Instead, his compositions are totally absorbing, plunging the listener into a nebulous pool of sound.
Lull develops many ideas developed by Pavone during recent quartet outings Brick and mortar and Lost and found. The ensemble has grown into an octet – two players each on violin, viola, cello and bass – and expands further to include soloists Nate Wooley on trumpet and percussionist Brian Chase (of Yeah Yeah fame Yeahs). In an interview with Halvorson published as she wrote the plays that would become LullPavone mentions an interest in cymatics – the study of physical forms manifested by sound and vibration – and how sound absorbed by the body can influence and reflect emotional states. These methodological tangents encouraged her to give her collaborators more leeway to play notes and sounds that make them feel good, that literally hit their bodies in a pleasant way and are comfortable to play, going so far as to ask Chase and Wooley what were their favorite grades. so that she can compose pieces for the byte around these tones. This music is generous in the way it favors the physical and emotional capacities of its performers; it is in turn magnificent, gnarled and expressive.
Of the four pieces on Lull, “Ingot”, which features Wooley, most elegantly embodies these ideas. The trumpeter sustains a G for most of the duration of the piece, subtly adjusting its timbre using an assemblage of mutes, aluminum foil, and his own voice, while the byte hums in a fashionable tone. disturbing below. Exploring the possibilities inherent in a single note has been a cornerstone of classical minimalism for more than half a century, but Wooley’s masterful mastery of texture, coupled with the uplifting waves produced by the independent tempi of each player. stringed instrument, produces a unique effect and intensity that increases as the piece unfolds. What begins as a temporary tremor gradually expands and erupts into a panoply of harmonics as the horsehair scrapes the steel strings where they meet the bridge.
Dissonance and chaos lurk around the edges of every room. One would expect from a music that offers many freedoms to a group of eight musicians, but Pavone integrates many of these moments directly into the score. “Indolent” begins with the violin and viola slowly passing each other like placid waves lapping on a shore, but four minutes later each pulse becomes more biting and claustrophobic as the tonal center dissolves and the pitches begin to rise. tack wildly. âHolt,â which focuses on Chase’s snare and boosted cymbal, is rowdy from the start, the spasmodic snare hits augmented by the violins and violas tapping the wooden side of their bows against the strings. The room climaxes with a rush of noise as Chase presses down on the electrified cymbal.
The beauty of musical expression is how it can harness emotions of all types and intensities, and what feels ârightâ to the performer can be experienced in endless ways by the listener. Pavone studied with a sound healer before writing music on Lull, and although the bowls and gongs used by these practitioners are not always suitable for ears acclimated to Western scales and harmonies, they are nonetheless deeply touching, just like this music. The power of these pieces comes from the inherent subjectivity of sound: the vast number of ways in which a given tone can be interpreted and experienced by the composer, performer and listener. By focusing on the performer’s pleasure, we learn more about their personalities, preferences and pleasures. And that knowledge, in turn, allows us to drift closer to a space of shared understanding and happiness.
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