Sara Galan and Edu Comelles, Cello + Laptop (at036); Cello + Laptop Live @ APiV (CdE#14)
Cello + Laptop is the electro-acoustic collaboration between cellist Sara Galan and sound artist Edu Comelles. Begun in Valencia, Spain in January 2010, the project is intended to create a dialogue between electronic sound and field recordings on the one hand, and the cello on the other.
Cello + Laptop documents one of the project’s earlier realizations. Recorded live at Barcelona’s El Niu in December 2010, this release on the Audiotalaia netlabel consists of a 35 minute continuous performance that blends pitched material and electronic manipulation into one gradually unfolding work. The electronics provide a tamboura-like foundation implying a tonal center, which serves as a point of reference throughout the piece. The cello’s distinctive, unaltered voice emerges to supply melodic fragments alternating between major and minor modes. These fragments are looped and overlapped, the loops creating a slow rhythmic cycle over which concrete electronic sounds accumulate. As the piece develops, the sound moves into more abstract territory while still retaining a sense of tonal organization; plucked and looped cello tones serve as signposts to a variable rhythmic structure and eventually coalesce into a slow ostinato over which long bowed tones are layered—one can even detect a binary chord progression making itself felt underneath it all.
The release on the Coleccion de emociones netlabel features Galan and Comelles’ 21 minute single piece performance at the Asociacion de Profesionales de la Ilustracion de Valencia in April 2011. The sound here, at least initially, is sparer than on the earlier recording. The piece begins with bell-like tones matched to sparse plucked notes from the cello. Galan then moves to an intensely emotional but understated melody that alternates between the cello’s lower and upper registers, gradually evolving into a dreamlike, wafting two chord sequence into which Gomelles inserts electronic sounds and field recordings. The somber atmosphere that results somehow never gets oppressive.
The hallmark of both of these releases is the slow accretion of sound into an increasing density, but one in which the electronics never overwhelm the natural sound of the cello. In the end, Galan and Comelles’ collaboration strikes a satisfying balance between tonality and abstract sound.