AMN Reviews: Leslie Ross – Drop by Drop, Suddenly [XI Records XI 141]

Leslie Ross’s Drop by Drop, Suddenly is a set of texturally exploratory pieces for bassoon augmented by multiple microphones. As a performer, Ross, an instrument builder as well as an instrumentalist with experience in experimental, classical and early music, has focused her attention on the physical aspects of sound, particularly as manifested through the use of multiphonics and microtones. The two CDs making up this release attest to the variety of textural and acoustic effects that can be created with a single wind instrument, with and without real-time sound processing.

Although Ross deliberately eschews large-scale pitch movement and otherwise strips her basic sound material down to a minimum, her performance techniques and use of miking serve to unravel individual tones and reveal them as containing multitudes—complex sound spectra of varying internal consonance and dissonance. Ross pushes far into this territory in two ways: first, with all those microphones, which she places at tone-holes and feeds out to multiple speakers; and second, by reducing musical movement to increments. The microphones pick up minute differences of timbre and pitch across the instrument, differences created and enhanced by circular breathing and multiphonics. Out of this she’s able to create textures that follow the breath as they expand and contract in thickness, volume and frequency–much like the cycling of lungs filling and emptying of air.

Daniel Barbiero