AMN Reviews: Bruce Friedman – Motoko Honda: Edge Study

Bruce Friedman – Motoko Honda: Edge Study (AnalogArts)

Edge Study is an experiment in tones and textures featuring West Coast composer/trumpeter Bruce Friedman and sound artist Motoko Honda. Friedman is perhaps best known as the creator of the OPTIONS system of graphic notation, a set of combinable symbols defining parameters to guide improvisation. Here he takes up the role of improvising instrumentalist working without a score, while Honda accompanies him on the Nord Lead Synthesizer.

As Friedman describes it, the purpose of this experiment is to come up with a way to reconfigure melody for the twenty-first century—in a way that is freed from functional harmony or pre-established cadences. One approach is to reconsider the basic elements of sound and phrasing underlying melody, and that is what happens here.

The three pieces contained on the CD represent a variety of minimalism grounded in the raw material of tone. Each improvisation follows the same basic template. Friedman creates a series of events consisting of clusters of a few long-held notes, which are followed by silence. Honda’s occasional interventions supply timbral variety and, when chance meetings of trumpet and synthesizer occur, accidental chords. Friedman’s selection of tones is firmly centered on the trumpet’s middle register, while the dynamic range is kept at an even level. The result is an open atmosphere of low density, as sound disperses before it can accumulate into a thickening mass. Any illusion of functional development is avoided through the deliberate use of tone sequences that are structured more by a sense of discovery than by scalar or harmonic development. Reimagined in this way, melody is returned to the ground of its own possibility. In the process, Friedman and Honda offer a kind of analytical decomposition that breaks the basic melodic unit of the phrase into an exchange between tone and silence, and the expansion and contraction of time.