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mwalker on 01/15/2010 at 10:45AM

between the silences

I have a strangely inescapable tendency to hear music in terms of temperature – an inability to absorb an aural atmosphere without instinctively consulting the mental thermometer. If my post from last week sought a warmly glowing antidote to the oppressive start of a new winter, I suppose this week I’ve shrugged off the struggle and decided to dive headlong into the surrounding chill. Between the Silences, a work by fascinating NYC composer Tristan Perich, evokes a frigid world of austere beauty – a vast monolith sculpted out of deceivingly simple contrasts. This shared recording comes from a performance at ISSUE dating back to 10/26/08.

Scored for nine strings and nine channels of 1-bit tones (the most primitive form of digital audio, created by sending on and off pulses of electricity to audio speakers), the work dissolves a series of apparent dualities into a singular, all-absorbing tone of haunting weight. Elegant, slowly-unfolding melodic shapes are continuously fragmented, with each successive pitch dispersed to a different timbre of the 18 voice ensemble. Despite the individual, isolated space given to each instrument, the equal-sharing of the glacial melodies serves to unify the disparate voices – obscuring the division between acoustic/electronic sources and blurring all timbral distinctions into an impenetrable field of disconcerting quietude.

The pace gradually wavers back and forth between slow and static; the harmonic density expands and contracts between rich, overlapping waves of dispersed melody and thin patches of isolated sound separated by pregnant pauses of thick silence. Eventually, the work dissolves into a single violin voice, left alone to obsessively reiterate a sole, remaining pitch – casting the same muted utterance, again and again, into an impassive void. We begin to realize that the emotional qualities of the silence and the sound have become identical…the most reliably certain instance of clear-cut duality has too been blurred and absorbed into the severe expanse of cold, enveloping transcendency.

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