Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Arnold Dreyblatt and the Orchestra of Excited Strings – Live at the Federal Hall 1981

Dreyblatt is an American minimalist whose work and reputation is seemingly assigned close-runner-up status to more, ahem, household names like Cage, Glass, Riley and Reich. History aside, this document affirms a level of play that is no less conceptually rich that his peers and predecessors, but with a human warmth sometimes absent in the science of their sound. The very basic component in most of Dreyblatt’s work is the nodal excitation of single long open strings. At this 1981 concert, instead of a naked investigation of this simple idea he is joined by a quartet of players who support and surround it. Dreyblatt and Ruth Charloff both play open tuned and extended double bass violas, while the other three musicians combine on seldom-seen (and specially chosen/constructed) instruments: the hurdy gurdy, portable pipe organ and midget upright princess pianoforte. Presented as one 50 minute track, the play is actually split into several movements with pauses to refresh and reset. The central feature of each is also one of its investigative propositions, as quoted in the booklet: “To explain why an open string when strung [sic] makes many sounds at once.” Dreyblatt’s lone percussive attack on the viola’s string does indeed unlock an undulating drone that is eventually picked up and filled out by the other players. The result is reminiscent of, though less aggressive than Tony Conrad’s “Dream Syndicate” works and the early Conrad/Cale/MacLise/Zazeela etc. “jams” that were the roots of many such drone excursions.

(Table of the Elements)

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