AMN Reviews: Michael Francis Duch – mind is moving (iv) [SOFA 591]

mind is moving (iv) for solo double bass is a relatively early work by Michael Pisaro-Liu, a composer associated with the Wandelweiser collective since the early 1990s. The piece is part of a series intended to explore the sonic vocabularies of particular instruments played solo. The structure of the composition is fairly simple: there are sixty sounds available to be played pizzicato at low volume and in any order, one sound per minute. A performance can run from thirty to sixty minutes, depending on how many of the sounds the performer chooses to play. For this album, which represents the first recording of the piece, Norwegian double bassist Michael Francis Duch has chosen to play all sixty sounds.

Like many Wandelweiser-associated works, mind is moving (iv) is as much a conceptual piece about the perception of time and the permeable boundary between sound and silence as it is a musical piece as such. The individual sound events that make up the piece’s non-narrative narrative are situated as so many isolated points along a continuum of relative emptiness; the choice of pizzicato rather than arco sounds limits the events’ durations, which only serves to dramatize their finitude and contingency within the encompassing expanse of infinite time. Consequently, the normal experience of listening to music by anticipating its impending forward motion has very little to gain a purchase on, and instead one’s awareness is thrown back on itself as much as it is directed toward the intermittent sounds of the instrument. Duch’s performance, which was recorded in Trondheim’s Nidaros Cathedral in August 2019, is appropriately unhurried and meditative; he lets each event speak for itself and even given the deliberately restricted timbral range of the sounds, he is able to bring out the individual character of each one. An integral part of the performance, the acoustics of the building’s interior space play a formative role in shaping the ebb and flow of individual sound events as they come into and go out of existence.

Daniel Barbiero

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