AMN Reviews: Stefan Thut – Two Strings and Boxes

Stefan Thut: Two Strings and Boxes [flex_005]

This new release presents a single 40-minute realization of a work by Swiss cellist/composer Stefan Thut. The piece is scored for two zithers—the two strings of the title—placed on top of cardboard boxes, which serve not only as surfaces on which the zithers rest, but as sounding chambers and sound sources as well.

As with much of Thut’s music, Two Strings and Boxes is a meditation on the entwined relationship of sound and ostensible silence. In Thut’s hands the relationship is a highly permeable one, with the intentional sounds called for in the composition and the accidental sounds pervading the interstices between them overlapping and serving equally well as background or foreground. The resulting exchangeability of field and figure defines the character of the performance. Accordingly, much of the sound produced by Thut and Johnny Chang, who joins the composer on zither, seems poised at the edge of disappearance. The timbres are at once brittle, as in the muted surf of faintly crackling sound that makes itself felt more than heard at various points, and subtly robust, as with the quietly sustained drones—the result of ebows?–that provide a sonic foundation for the performance. Occasionally a harmony will emerge from the coincidence of zither lines—a reminder that here we’re in the borderland where music and sound cohabit easily.

The limited edition CD is accompanied by Patrick Farmer’s evocative essay, the indirectly allusive nature of which nicely complements Thut and Chang’s performance.