Music with Birds cs719









Creative Sources releases usually appear quickly, especially after they're announced — & promptly getting musical performances out to the broader community is one of the things I appreciate about the label... — but some do seem to experience delays: Recently that's included Music with Birds, a double album around violinist Elo Masing for which I consequently built up some feelings of anticipation.... And I wouldn't say that Music with Birds, the two programs recorded in Berlin on consecutive dates in March 2021, is all that successful as music either, but I guess I stared at it too long not to make some remarks, now that it's here: Masing had first appeared in this space with the improvised string quartet album Crane Cries back in April 2018 (in this case, the traditional classical quartet configuration...), and that bird-inspired release did make an impression. Of course, zoomimesis has also figured into this space via various other productions — as I've started to build a vocabulary around it — & that's often meant water fowl. However, while many of those albums merely involve musicians mimicking the sounds of birds or other animals, Music with Birds involves the participation of "Kakaduu" (presumably naming the avian family we call in English cockatoo...), a domestic bird whose contribution is actively engaged, and via a different "trio" for the two LP-length programs: CD1 involves Christoph Schwantke on 8-string guitar & voice (& Schwantke eventually tries to entice the bird with whistling...), while CD2 pairs cellist Hui-Chun Lin instead. (Music with Birds was also co-released on Lin's Maybee Records, as have been several other CS records involving Lin. I'm thinking the delay for the release involved the cover? It depicts an "art work" by the bird....) The bird is engaged "personally" & specifically, then, but Music with Birds does also recall Bow Hard at the Frog in this space, a more "impersonal trio" of Fred Lonberg-Holm improvising in a swamp with frogs & insects (reviewed here in May 2018 — citing Crane Cries...!). Those animals are more ubiquitous & relatively constant in the performance, then, whereas Kakaduu must be engaged, particularly on the first album. (The bird is more often active on the second. Actually, I wasn't sure if I was hearing the bird mimic the strings so well I couldn't tell, but from what I read, these species aren't that into mimicry, and so the bird's vocalizations tend to be distinct, relatively shrill....) "Bird themes" are proliferating in general, in fact, and I'd sketched a few notes last year (when this album was announced...) to that effect, but the theme has been ramping up to such a degree that Phil Zampino at Squidco recently did an entire rundown of albums with "Bird" in the title (meaning that there're plenty of others without that word... including e.g. old favorite Natura Venomous). And there are various "environmental" productions as well, i.e. not mimicking animal calls, but projecting the sounds they might experience or inspire... e.g. the cello quartet Hunter Underwater (also just co-released on CS & Maybee) apparently suggesting the world of a shark or ray (depending on cover graphic).... Obviously this is a rich arena, and even figures much "anthropology music" in general. Anyway, Music with Birds builds much of its sense of suspense or tension from wondering what the bird will do, the sense of waiting for something to happen not really seeming that different from many improvisation outings.... At times the bird comes off almost as background noise to me though, but the musicians do try to engage. (There's generally an atmospheric quality to the proceedings.) Probably the most delicate joint texture, in string harmonics, opens the second album.... And a sense of repose does tend to maintain. But mostly it doesn't feel like a conversation. It also seems there're other birds that'd be more musical (although presumably that's subjective). Todd McComb's Jazz Thoughts