AMN Reviews: Jane Rigler – Rarefactions [Neuma 450113]

neuma_records_and_publications081815002026The rarefaction of the title of this collection—a lessening of density or pressure in a medium, as when a sound wave passes through air—is meant as an overall metaphor for the music it contains. All of the pieces reflect flautist/composer Jane Rigler’s interest in the rarefied, individual sound properties of music at an elemental level, where the basic building blocks of material, gesture, timbre and density can be foregrounded and formed into independent structures of—often quite literally—breathtaking subtlety.

The tracks, consisting of nine relatively brief pieces and one longer suite, were fully improvised by Rigler and a small ensemble made up of Janet Feder, Shoko Nagai, and Satoshi Takeishi, in various combinations and on various instruments. Except for one improvisation for Rigler on solo piccolo and one duet for Rigler again on piccolo and Nagai on accordion, which are presented as they were played, the performances were reworked by Rigler in the studio through editing or overdubbing in order to emphasize some aspect of the sound or to infuse compositional structure.

In the solo pieces for herself Rigler shows how she can dig deeply into music’s formative factors to come up with compositions focused on micro-level phenomena. She takes, for example, the hollow of the breath as it explodes into and travels across the mouthpiece of the flute or piccolo, shucking off the skin of pitch and leaving the inner husk of air rushing through and around the metal tube. The multi-tracked Pulsar 1 for overdubbed piccolos plays with the microtonal discrepancies between the voices—creating a choric effect for one, as it were—while the similarly layered Pulsar 2 takes as its subject matter the low, resonating drones of bass flute, voice and electronics.

The four quartet pieces Rewind, Externally Rarefied, Literally Rarefied and Rewound are essays in the timbral interplay of flutes, prepared strings, percussion, keyboards and electronics, often sparsely textured in order to allow each individual instrument to display the grain of its own voice. Sparseness—a rarefaction of performance–is in fact an overriding aesthetic value for all of these performances, which seem in the end to want to go beyond the physics of sound and to portray instead the coming into being of the music-bearing gesture against a background of emptiness.

Daniel Barbiero