Wednesday 24th MarchMarch 25, 2010
This evening Julie and I went to see (one second while I duck the shouts of derision) Ricky Gervais live in Oxford. Unlike many others, I’ve always enjoyed his stuff, though I would agree with most that he isn’t anywhere near as funny as he used to be. Tonight was alright, I’m glad we went, but certainly his best years seem to be past him already. Anyway that’s what we did tonight. Now I am home and listening to a CDr on the Another Timbre Byways sublabel that somehow I haven’t listened to until today despite its release maybe a couple of months ago now. It is by the your British duo of Stephen Cornford and Samuel Rodgers and is named Turned Moment, weighting and was released as part of the piano series of discs the label released.
I saw the duo perform live in London a few weeks back at a launch show for this and other discs on Another Timbre and wrote about it here. This CD covers similar ground to the concert did, with Cornford working with the inside of an old piano, which he has miked up in some mysterious manner so as to produce mostly soft tonal feedback clouds and Rodgers playing more straightforward piano with objects applied so as to widen the realm of possibilities. There are three tracks here making up an album of forty-five minutes total length. the first is named Â Weighted. The piece starts very slowly, with just distant high pitched tones and almost undetectable scratching at piano strings leading the way. As the piece progresses so the pattern of the album emerges, with Cornford producing soft feedback swells from his piano innards that Rodgers sprinkles a combination of small tinkling interludes, percussive clatter and gently played straightforward notes into. This piece moves at a deathly slow pace, with the sounds used given all the time and space they need to be listened to lovingly, rolled around the eardrum a little before moving on. There is a definite sense of a delicate grandeur to the music, in the best sense of that word. Sounds appear at intervals and are clear statements carefully placed, and everything has a sense of weightiness to it as if everything has been thoroughly deliberated over in the moment before being added to the music. The track ends with a lovely passage where a single unwavering tones curls slowly from Cornford as Rodgers’ tiny bell-like ringing follows the straight line.
The second piece, Moment, follows in a similar manner, with the tones here becoming a little more rich and layered. Again the sounds are very beautiful here, a sense of suspension audible throughout, the elongated tones seemingly hanging in the air and the bells, tinny percussive strikes and boldly picked out keystrokes almost acting as a second hand on a clock as Cornford’s hour hand moves only very slowly, almost too slow for the eye/ear to notice. The third piece here, Turning uses a far higher pitched set of sounds, with the feedback tuned to a piercing note for much of the time and strings agitated by one of the other musician, presumably with an eBow to give the softness of the music a bit more of a serrated edge at least for the first half of the twelve minute piece until from about ten seconds silence a cloudy feedback line slowly emerges and the music follows a similar pattern to the first two tracks here.
My criticism of the music, as thoroughly beautiful as it is, may be that it feels like it places the aesthetics of the sound over the actual content of the music a little too much. Everything is very beautiful, stately in the sounds chosen, slow and precise in its realisation, but beyond the lulling warmth of the sound and the nice combinations of elongated tones and shorter percussive incidents there is little to actually get your teeth into here. The music is all improvised but it sounds a little predictable, there is nothing that really shakes things up at all, nothing that sounds like it is being tussled with and resolved in the moment. Don’t get me wrong, I am not pining for blood and guts, call and response conversation, but Turned Moment, weighting does feel a little too tastefully rounded. As each of the three pieces begin it is clear where they will go, and while the simple beauty of the music is enough to make listening here enjoyable I might have liked to have heard a little more tension and discomfort in there. Perhaps a third musician would be a useful addition to the pairing. Still, these are early days for these two thoroughly promising musicians and I look forward to hearing more from them. They play a concert on the 17th April at St Marks in London alongside a host of TWE favourite names. I certainly would like to think I will be there. The CD is available from Another Timbre, whose site also includes a short free Mp3 file excerpted from the concert mentioned above.