Crane Cries cs503









I was wrapped up with another project, so it's taken a little longer to focus on Crane Cries, an improvised string quartet album from Creative Sources featuring Ernesto & Guilherme Rodrigues together with Elo Masing (b.1984, Estonia) & Dietrich Petzold (b.1954) on violins (& sometimes viola for the latter). I was not familiar with Masing, who has some compositions available online, but Petzold had appeared with the Rodrigueses already on Sacred Noise (a double album recorded in October 2016): That album generally features much smoother textures within a quieter, more often minimalist, vibe (with the second disc having been recorded in a church). Crane Cries, recorded in Berlin last October, is also a very long album (over seventy minutes), and considering that Petzold not only switches instruments (& he also plays a variety of instruments, beyond violin, on Sacred Noise), but recorded & mastered the album, this might be his project as "second violin." However, obviously Ernesto Rodrigues has been involved in an extensive series of improvising string projects — although not previously a classical string quartet per se, at least to my knowledge — and Masing seems to be making a significant debut here. (She also appeared on last year's recording of Cornelius Cardew's Treatise by a London improvising ensemble.) Although the variety & density of string figures & exchanges create a rather different feel from some of the smoother or otherwise more minimal albums from Rodrigues, such a style is not unprecedented: In some ways, Crane Cries seems like a continuation of the Lisbon String Trio series (from earlier in 2017), although there is no bass & the cellist is different too. Perhaps then it's more simply a continuation of the stream of various Rodrigues albums featuring multiple bowed strings in general.... (One might even compare to e.g. The Afterlife of Trees, discussed here in December, where the Rodrigueses join a different sort of Berlin string duo, also including violin, to form a quartet. The music there is rather less contrapuntal, however.) In any case, a turn to such a classic quartet configuration — albeit with Petzold sometimes switching to viola, and so doubling the middle ranges (as is so often the case on recent Rodrigues albums), even as the cello is here the low end instead of the middle (as it likewise has been so often for Rodrigues, and for that matter, various tenor-oriented counterpoints) — is surely notable. Regarding density (& e.g. the previous entry), it's also difficult to know exactly what was planned or understood prior to the performance, but the quartet does tend to keep to a typical twentieth century string quartet density throughout most tracks — and the departures are also seemingly intentional invocations of style. Whose crane idea was it? That's a tangible question (and perhaps Masing — yet another violinist to appear on a Rodrigues album — is the answer). And whoever it is, are the titles retrospective or was the theme planned? (Do the titles form a narrative?) I tend to think that each track indeed involves the sounds of living crane activity (i.e. is at least inspired by it), and so there must have been some planning or coordination. How much of the detail actually derives from cranes? Not all of it, obviously, since there are romantic harmonies & other traditional string figures. (There is no shortage of variety in this regard.) So perhaps this is something like Messiaen's bird pieces, which involve various supplements — not to mention his particular sensibility when transcribing into (Western) human notation — to the harmonic & rhythmic potential of the bird songs & sounds per se, in this case focusing on one species (or actually, at least according to the title, family). The result is technically sophisticated, including a variety of harmonics, pizzicato (which are especially amazing on track five), glissandi & other pitch bending. (And note that I've long explicitly enjoyed Messiaen's birdsong pieces, so this is not a novel musical influence for me. That said, Messiaen's bird music did not involve microtonality or so much timbral detail.) There's also something of a landscape feel, particularly in the epic second track, such that a sense of distance enters into what is often a rather immanent interaction: Whereas Crane Cries evokes the natural (zoological) world explicitly (& specifically), the landscape quality & general technique might be compared e.g. to Rodrigues work on Traintracks Roadsides Wastelands Debris — (another long album) explicitly dealing with "non-nature." Similarly, Chant, featuring a string quartet of its own (plus marimba), mixes a wide variety of twentieth century (classical) string techniques with a sort of vaguely natural or "world" quality. (So if anything, such a "polarity," i.e. between classical string interactions & in this case, animal sounds, is more stark on Crane Cries. And when those poles do coalesce, it's usually in the more minimalist mode of sound exploration.) Among recent Rodrigues albums, one of the most similar is obviously K'Ampokol Che K'Aay, despite the inclusion of the clarinet: The use of classical string figures & style of counterpoint, not to mention (once again) the naturalistic & postcolonial cosmopolitan vibe, suggests a similar interaction & sometimes mood. (Crane Cries, perhaps as inspired by actual cranes, is generally more languid, however, even romantic at times.) Whereas much of the album is active — and there is a good recorded presence — it's also (as already noted) sometimes more minimalist (perhaps as a further interrogation of classical styles), including within the landscape mode. In the end, perhaps the simplest summary is that many different sound events occur over the course of these eight tracks, some of them seemingly part of a concrete (naturalist) narrative, but also including plenty of "music" per se to occupy the listening mind more generally — frankly to the point of exhaustion on first hearing. So it's quite a meaty album, albeit not particularly abstract due to its specific zoological reference point. (And as far as continuing to feature so many Creative Sources releases, I continue to especially enjoy them.... I'd be happy to have more from others provoking thoughts in me too. Meanwhile, I have to discuss what actually calls, or cries, out to me.) 25 April 2018. Todd McComb's Jazz Thoughts

Emulating the sounds and intentions of cranes through string improvisation and unusual techniques, the quartet of Estonian violinist Elo Masing, German violinist Dietrich Petzold, and Portuguese violist and cellist Ernesto and Guilherme Rodrigues name each of 8 tracks on the behavior of cranes, from forming a flock, migration, fighting, ritual dancing, to nesting. (Squidco)