Bruno Duplant/Paulo Chagas/David Sait: Late Winter/Early Spring [ATCD21.2011]
The title of this release from late last year refers directly to its time of making: Late winter and early spring of 2011. This was also the time of the earthquake and tsunami that wrought havoc on Japan. Both the austerity of the seasons and the gravity of the natural disasters lie behind this starkly beautiful music.
The two long pieces feature longtime collaborators Bruno Duplant on double bass, percussion and laptop and Paulo Chagas on bass clarinet and sopranino clarinet. They are joined by David Sait on melodica and guzheng, the latter being a Chinese 21-string zither.
Late Winter is grounded in a drone of arco bass; over this foundation Chagas lays out long tones on the bass clarinet. The overall atmosphere of the piece is elegiac, the dark sounds of the low-pitched instruments conjuring the drab browns and greys of bare branches with snow-overcast skies showing between. Early Spring is notable for its rhythmic passages and the implicit modalism of the sopranino clarinet, which spins out brief melodic arcs and seems to hint at a quasi-serialism turning on tritones and minor seconds. These latter are complemented by the guzheng’s evocation of diminished chords.
Both tracks create an atmosphere allusive to, but by no means imitative of, classical Japanese court music. Sait’s guzheng provides a textural recollection of the koto, its Japanese offspring, while Chagas’s reeds, especially the sopranino clarinet, bring to mind the phrasing and tone of the shakuhachi.
Although intellectually satisfying in its experiments with form and timbre, Late Winter/Early Spring is also emotionally powerful, albeit in a subdued way. This is music that manages to be thought-provoking and affecting at the same time.