Heptaphonies cs455









Improvising string ensemble albums from Ernesto Rodrigues continue to appear at a dizzying pace. Before embarking on a more extended discussion of the series of six (so far) albums that he recently released under the banner of the "Lisbon String Trio," I want to note the newest issue in the "String Theory" series (that apparently began with Gravity, by a 17-member ensemble), Heptaphonies: The latter was actually recorded, also in Lisbon, this past January, i.e. a month prior to the previous issue, Xenon (discussed here in May). In this case, as the title implies, there are seven performers — making it something of an exploration of geometry in a sense not unlike that invoked elsewhere by Five — and the odd one out happens to be Ernesto himself on viola. He's joined by two each of violin, cello & bass: Maria do Mar & Thea Farhadian, Guilherme Rodrigues & Miguel Mira, and Álvaro Rosso & Hugo Antunes. The violinists have appeared on several albums on Creative Sources, and of course the cellists are two of Rodrigues's most frequent collaborators (Mira more recently), but the bassists are relatively new: Rosso had only appeared previously on the large ensemble album Quasar, such that Heptaphonies now seems to herald his role as part of the Lisbon String Trio (whose first album, Proletariat, was recorded later, in March, but released a few weeks earlier), and Antunes not at all (that I could find), although he has been featured on e.g. Clean Feed. As I had noted for Xenon, which is by a violin family trio plus classical guitar, the album "includes a wider range of timbres & dynamics, mixing bowing & plucking into various sorts of string resonances, from harmonics to deep rumblings." Particularly with the larger ensemble (septet), albeit all violin-family instruments here, one might also compare to e.g. the quintet Blattwerk (as discussed here last month), although that album does come off as more of a collage than the open synthesis here (& on Xenon, for that matter) — plus it includes a percussionist (to excellent effect, I should reiterate). The five tracks are generally short, and Heptaphonies is fairly short overall, often revolving around some sort of discursive figures, or classically-derived technical gestures, that might intensify or shift quickly into something else. Indeed, it opens rather powerfully, but doesn't necessarily sustain that through a variety of (often very fast) reconfigurations: Not only harmonics & deep rumblings, but percussive blips, hocketing, etc. litter the air as these musicians generally move quickly, yet sometimes chain figures together into quasi-diffuse arcs where a strained continuity becomes key. The music might be said to explore different forms of weak (in the sense that it's also tending to break apart), spontaneous continuity. (One might wonder if the frequent return to twentieth century "classical" string figures, amid the non-idiomatic explorations, reflects the mechanics of the instruments themselves. It's unlikely these musicians remain in standard tunings, however; that's not the norm for e.g. Mira.) It's difficult to treat such a volume of albums from Rodrigues individually sometimes — although obviously I'm quite taken with various elements of his approach — and so this release feels a bit like a step along the way, although that might only describe its place in my own musical life. (Indeed, I don't even know what defines this "String Theory" series, yet I continue to listen.) There is still much to enjoy & ponder, however, in the sound world of partial becomings on Heptaphonies. Rodrigues & his colleagues continue to forge new styles. 12 July 2017. Todd McComb's Jazz Thoughts

Drawing its name from the seven members making up this string ensemble led by violist Ernesto Rodrigues, String Theory complements the concurrent Lisbon String Trio albums by magnifying concepts in freely improvised string interactions, using unusual harmonics, melodic and percussive approaches to instruments, and quickly moving quietly intense interaction. (Squidco)