nuc box hums cs408









A friction quartet, at times quite energized. In addition to viola, cello, and double bass, the instrumentation is notable for Kriton B.’s daxophone, a rather obscure instrument in the class of “friction idiophone,” which consists of a wooden block with contact microphones that can be fitted with a variety of different wooden “tongues,” which are then played with a bow and a second piece of wood called a “dax” that is used to adjust pitch and timbre. The resulting music exists outside the idea of notes, scales, or any other neat Western organization of sound. Still, the daxophone has an affinity with the strings: an impressive array of rasping, scraping, whining sounds, all undoubtedly connected to the pressure and tension of objects rubbing together, and which fit snuggly within more rough-hewn methods for playing string instruments. One is reminded of skull resonance, of sound as a vibration transmitted through a solid object rather than through the air.

The album and song titles are all related to beekeeping, although I hear less Kent Carter’s “insect music” than perhaps the creaks and groans of the wooden nuc boxes themselves as they thrum with activity, as though the contact mics had been embedded in the very walls of the artificial hive. The pieces range from the creaking drones of wind whipping through an old barn to incredibly tense knots of activity, the sense of torsion palpable, like branches being bent and twisted into splinters or the sound beneath the waves as a ship gets tossed against the rocks. The daxophone pushes the three string players away from clean tones and traditional playing: instead, they meet its strange challenge by rubbing strings, bowing wooden bodies, plying out harmonics, or pizzicato attacks with no particular note in mind. Dan Sorrells (The Free Jazz Collective)