0 minutes 0 seconds cs524









I wasn't sure what to expect from 0 minutes and 0 seconds, recorded in Berlin last October, but it ends up being one of the most compelling recent albums from Ernesto & Guilherme Rodrigues. (And of course they both appear on so many albums....) The uncertainty derived from two basic dimensions, the first being the apparent "tribute" mode engaged by the title: This must be an evocation of Cage, right? (His piece 0'00", composed in 1962, is subtitled 4'33" No. 2, and so is a direct followup to what is often considered — especially by non-admirers — to be Cage's most influential, or at least provocative, composition.) Yet, besides the fact that Cage's 0'00" directs the performer to do anything (rather, to "perform a disciplined action") for any length of time, it is unequivocally labeled as for soloist (on any instrument). So here the solo instrument is a quartet of strings & electronics, and moreover, there are five tracks: As is not always the case in this music, there are even clear track divisions, with a few seconds of silence between them. So perhaps one should think of five different versions (although Cage himself did allow for "interruptions" in this work). 0 minutes and 0 seconds is not the first album by Rodrigues to present an enigma within a tribute context (and indeed Ernesto has a new album For Cecil Taylor that I expect to hear in the next few weeks): I ended up saying nothing about it at the time, in large part due to my own confusion, but e.g. Licht had already appeared in 2015. One might conclude that the title is simply an ordinary (German) word, but the evocation of Stockhausen's massive cycle goes beyond the title & in concrete ways, such as the seven tracks of the album (& perhaps even the septet of musicians). I rarely ask Ernesto anything specific about his music per se, but I did ask him if that album related to Stockhausen. (It cannot be a faithful performance of the score, at least not in any complete or logical sense.) His response was cryptic, so I dropped the subject. In any case, whereas Rodrigues's Licht is much more manageable than Stockhausen's, his 0'00" would appear to be rather more expansive than Cage's. (One might also call these "classical albums" accordingly, although at this point, I'm not sure what sort of point such a distinction would be making.) In keeping with a sense of 0 minutes and 0 seconds as consisting of five different performances of Cage's work by the same quartet of musicians, there are strong & overlapping perceptions of temporality involved: Much seems to happen, despite the relatively short length (just under forty minutes total), such that each track constitutes its own individual world: These can be quiet worlds, yet with an intensity that relates to qualities of duration per se. Not unlike Sîn, 0 minutes and 0 seconds also responds to different levels of attention, from concentration to indifference, although it can tend to fade away under the latter condition. (And regarding the "what's next?" question asked around Tellurium last week, 0 minutes and 0 seconds is numbered higher than 500 in the Creative Sources catalog, as were already Sîn, Meandros e Vertentes, etc. So things continue to happen quickly for Rodrigues....) Likewise in keeping with a sense of classical performance, there are perhaps questions of elitism lingering behind such work, and so this might be a good time for a few (more) general remarks: First, the notion that "popular" music, emerging from within the confines of imperial modernism, could be uncontaminated by the conditions of its emergence is an absurdity. One can speak of insurrection, of course, and the means at one's disposal, but there is certainly no purity to any such project — as seems to be posited by some critics of elitism. In fact, one requires considerable investigation in order to strip away layers of imperial imposition, and the basic ways in which Western tonality has rendered itself as being self-evident. If one responds in turn that such investigation is not, in principle, open to everyone, of course I must agree, because people function under various constraints (in actuality). So experimental music of this sort is certainly not sufficient, but it does contribute to the insurrectional character of popular struggle by virtue of its confrontation with universalizing & transcendentalizing imperial (musical) rhetoric. It is a matter, in other words, of immanent revolt at all levels, and so of not automatically or necessarily being content with whatever kernel of "the popular" presents itself. (Personally, whereas I can hear the insurrectional qualities to be found in e.g. the American Songbook, I also hear the modernizing tendencies, particularly the embedded anti-indigenous rhetoric, strongly & moreover, first.) After all, popular radio was established for social control: This is simply a fact, regardless of whatever heresy might have been allowed into it over the years. So sometimes, perhaps, one might do well to begin again from "first principles" of music, and this is what we see today in experimental improvisation: How does one forge or trace or acknowledge a new form of life, beyond the supposed non-alternative of contemporary neoliberal globalization? Is envisioning (or en-audibling) the non-impossibility of change inherently elitist? Let us hope not! (Is the unfamiliar elitist? In what sense might this be true or untrue? It is not a simple question....) So these are general comments, but what of this particular music? For one, the smaller forces (that I tend to favor here, as noted too often already) are easier to assemble, requiring fewer resources or coordination — in that an album always enacts or projects an economy of forces. (Although one could also posit that the popular, by definition, allows for the gathering of larger forces.) On 0 minutes and 0 seconds the Rodrigueses are joined (only) by Andrew Lafkas on double bass & Bryan Eubanks (b.1977) on "oscillators," yielding my second basic uncertainty around the album: I was not previously familiar with either. However, Lafkas had worked e.g. with Bill Dixon, and even has a trio album Funkhaus (released late last year) on Fine Noise and Light with Mazen Kerbaj & label director (& bassist) Mike Bullock: That is also a pulsing affair, but tends to be less smooth. Lafkas & Eubanks have actually worked together regularly, including years of performance (& albums such as Oceans Roar 1000 Drums, from 2012) as a trio with loft-era jazz drummer Todd Capp: Theirs is another exploration of duration & continuity via waves of sound, this time with drums forging much of the segmented material for elaboration via complementary smoothness. (Coincidentally, Capp joins the duo of Guillermo Gregorio & Nicolas Letman-Burtinovic for many of the tracks on their recent album Futura Spartan Suite, another innovative clarinet trio record that, like Bird Saw Buchla, is accompanied by very little documentation.) The general smoothness of whatever the oscillators are (& it seems to be basic sine wave production) tends to facilitate even more blend than an actual string quartet, which the ensemble otherwise resembles: The album begins with a brief clear tone (from an oscillator, I suppose), and quickly moves through a liminal, sheering presence via the strings — a Scelsian becoming, one might say. (One might also hear pre-echoes of Tellurium.) Some other tracks can have been more calm, rather than emergent per se, perhaps amid whistling harmonics or a sense of a distant signal, even the chirping of birds.... What such a description cannot convey, however, is the basic affectivity involved, and how 0 minutes and 0 seconds consequently modulates the listener's mood & receptivity. (One might think of notions of interiority & command — or indeed of being outside time.) Perhaps I will compare to some other favorites, and in particular Growing carrots..., which projects a similar sort of experimental emergence, but within a different (again, as one might say, here following Steve Goodman, aka Kode9) "politics of frequency" — such that, in other words, Growing carrots... generally emphasizes higher pitches within its particular assemblage of strings & electronics. Whitewashed with lines had explored similar sonorities (including as process-based) with related sorts of rigor & conceptions of dissonance.... Although this discussion projects an impersonal quality, 0 minutes and 0 seconds retains a very human core, such that expression itself is highlighted: In this, it's almost the inverse complement of Traintracks..., in which a more immediate expressivity is turned toward articulating industrial (i.e. inhuman) devastation. In that sense, 0 minutes and 0 seconds is more immanently noetic (i.e. regards the interiority of thought), and so successful (as well as novel) as a tribute to Cage. 2 June 2018. Todd McComb's Jazz Thoughts

Lisbon-based viola player Ernesto Rodrigues joins three Berlin-based musicians--cellist Guilherme Rodrigues, with double bassist Andrew Lafkas and electronics artist Bryan Eubanks--merging the lowercase approaches of Creative Sources groupings with experimental electronics for a 5-part album that ranges from the subliminal to assertive tones and momentum. The music has a great deal of tension, but also orchestral beauty, surprising from such a small grouping. Eubanks is often difficult to pinpoint, providing very subtle tones and feedback that could easily be string sounds, or at time the calling of alien birds. The characteristics of Creative Sources collective approaches is made distinct by the occasional aggressive motion, but overall the players maintain an even and remarkably controlled level of suspense and mystery. This would be a good entrypoint album for those unfamiliar with the Creative Sources catalog but who are interested in EA-Improv in general. (Squidco)