Review of "Sudden Sound"

I meant to post this a while back, but what follows is a short review I wrote of a performance that took place at Cornell in early October with some well-known free-improv performers.

Tim Hodgkinson, clarinet
Chris Cochrane, guitar
Miguel Fasconi, glass objects

Barnes Hall, Cornell University, 3 October 2011, 8PM

“Sudden Sound”

In this, their first public presentation as a trio, Tim Hodgkinson, Chris Cochrane, and Miguel Fasconi gifted a performance of subtle intensity. Each one is prominent in his own right, with Iancu Dumitrescu, Anna-Maria Avram, Bob Ostertag, Ikue Mori, and Morton Subotnik among their combined set of collaborators. Hodgkinson performed on his trademark clarinet, Cochrane on guitar, tuning fork, pedals, and diminutive amplifier, and Fasconi amongst a set of fragile, yet resilient, glass objects carefully spaced on a closely miked table. This disparate arrangement nevertheless produced a superposition of abilities that never brought too much attention to any individual. The “Sudden” of the concert’s title referred not to contrasts in amplitude but rather to immediacy, to prompt relationships formed between the performers. Even when playing separately, their restraint enabled a certain resonance to be shaped between them, the attentive audience, and the prior sounds resting in the air.

Onstage in Cornell University’s Barnes Hall, under the nighttime shadow of an ivory tower, the first half wove a set that continually pushed against its limit, playing the weft of rhythmic gestures against the warp of held tones. Sensitivity ruled, as each took time to let the other two mesh their phrases together. Cochrane’s looped rhythms became linked to Fasconi’s playing of two undulated glass plates against each other, with unvoiced clicking keys on Hodgkinson’s clarinet completing the gesture. Electromagnetically-induced vibrations in guitar strings became multiphonic squeals became frenetic ringing of water filled-cognac glasses tilted to change their frequency. At one point Fasconi shook matroyshka doll-like fragments of glass, producing not only a rhythmic base but also a pulverized cloud of fragments dissipating into the air. Even at its most energetic there was restraint, waiting, letting things be.

The second set moved through a series of solos. Fasconi began at the rear of chapel-like hall, coaxing wispy phrases out of a hollow glass tube submerged in a flask. Returning to the stage, he blew into a coiled glass tube, at times letting the gurgle of sloshing water reverberate. Cochrane provoked the audience through feedback-snarled riffs that stood in direct contrast to what was already in the air; yet he massaged these wails into a harmonious dronescape that would make the Theatre of Eternal Music proud. Hodgkinson slowly meandered about the stage, his multiphonics being picked up by the mics scattered about and thus creating a wonderful phasing effect. Returning as a trio they became more animated with less room to breathe. Cochrane’s tuning fork rumbled against his pickups while Hodgkinson raced between registers. Fasconi’s screeching glass-on-glass induced a visceral reaction akin to fingernails on a chalkboard. Nevertheless, using mallets to ring tuned cylinders, he induced haunting bell-like sounds that, closing the performance, counteracted the deadening effect of the ever-present carillon in the tower outside.

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