On the face of it, the duet would appear to be the least complicated of improvisational configurations. There are only two voices involved, eliminating any need for intricate arrangements of either a predetermined or spontaneous sort, and a presumably low upward limit on the variety of textural qualities available. Ramifying from this seeming simplicity though is a potentially complex set of interactions playing out across multiple levels of possibility.
The observation above is occasioned by Birth of Shapes, a set of improvised duets featuring Marco Colonna on clarinet, bass clarinet and baritone saxophone, and Agusti Fernandez on piano and prepared piano, which was recorded live at the Sala dei Giganti in Padua.
Birth of Shapes’ seven improvisations present the piano-wind duet from different architectural perspectives. On Giant Sleep and Memories at the Mirror, Colonna and Fernandez take the basic structure of the sonata—a solo voice over piano accompaniment—and recast it as a kind of free sonata liberated from strictures of sonata form. Memories at the Mirror adds a further unconventional twist by beginning with Colonna playing two instruments at once, effectively harmonizing his own line over Fernandez’s shaken-metal prepared piano sounds. Other pieces allude obliquely to a Baroque model of interplay between wind and keyboard. Abstract Feelings, for example, is an angularly contrapuntal piece made of thickly knotted lines—coarse-grained baritone saxophone over restless piano cascading across registers—that somehow settles into a pensive, sometimes wrenching, second half. On the title track form follows expression, as an intensely played clarinet, often reaching into the extreme upper register, grinds against a densely droning piano foundation. On all tracks, both musicians constantly maintain a fine balance between classical equilibrium and improvisational intensity.