Dating back to 1991, Andrew Voigt and Ed Herrmann’s Three Duets delves into some of the creative possibilities of the then somewhat novel pairing of saxophone and analogue modular synthesizer. Nearly thirty years after it was recorded, the set still stands as compelling music.
As musicians, the two have explored different paths. Saxophonist Voigt was a founding member of the Bay Area ROVA Saxophone Quartet—he’s the “V” in “ROVA”; at the time these improvised duets were recorded in San Francisco, he’d recently left the group after having stayed with them for a decade. Herrmann, in addition to being an improviser and composer, is a sound engineer and instrument maker who leads audio tours of Chicago. As these improvisation show, though, different paths can converge quite effectively.
Voigt and Herrmann’s collaboration tends to center on the linear mobility of pitch rather than on the more abstract qualities of timbre as such, although certainly there are moments where the quality of a sound becomes its preeminent feature. Assault of the Palindrome, the opening track, finds Voigt’s serpentine lines weaving around and between Herrmann’s uncanny simulation first of upper register plucked strings and then of a low-register, snapping elastic band. Deferring Delusion follows with the two instruments closely overlapping in sound and timbre and then dissolves into the rumble and hum of synthesizer overlaid with the soft twitter of the saxophone. For the third and final piece, Succumb to Mercury, Herrmann sets the textural atmosphere as Voigt explores a range of extended techniques.