AMN Reviews:  Timothy Crist – the long waves (2022; Bandcamp)

Based on my sojourn into multi-disciplinarian Tim Crist’s recent release, the long waves, I feel safe to say that he is someone you may want to put on your radar. I think “he be goin places” …if you define “places” as the crossing of perceptual levels from familiar to a previously obscured, peculiar.

A little background from his bio:

Timothy Crist is a Professor of Music at Arkansas State University where he teaches composition, electronic music, theory, classical guitar, and conducts/directs the ASU New Music Ensemble and Guitar Ensembles.

Perhaps more relevant to this release:

Since 1999, Crist has also developed an electronic music program at A-State that serves to build comprehensive skills in musical perception, maintain modern trends in music creation, as well as train and provide competency for future teachers in regards to the implementation of music technology in education

Stylistically, the long waves is grouped into two distinct parts.  The middle of the album has three generative modular pieces which give the impression of being unstructured, yet (on two of them) very melodious and, at times rhythmic.  The album is bookended with four other pieces that seem strictly acousmatic to my ears.  These two discernable listening experiences served to interact with my senses in completely different ways providing a varied, and very rewarding sound journey.

Ignoring the album’s chronological order, the modular pieces were striking because, per the composer…there was an element of probability injected into his more intentional control of spectral content. On both “in trust…” and “…not certainty” we have long, sinuous lines that seem to almost resolve themselves into hummable (by Western standards) melodies.  The generative aspect of these pieces provides just enough of an unsuspected and exploratory nature to prevent the music from getting to a “safe” (again, by Western standards) harbor.

I had similar observations with perceived rhythms.  They were there, then they were not…they were groovy, until they became an abstract notion of what happened immediately before.

The third generative modular piece, “a fiercer life because of our quiet” seems to throw all those Western music rules out the window.  This piece drops the listener in a kind of free-form synthetic playground.  I’ve noticed that with each listening, I was able to spin up different perceptual experiences dependent on environment, alertness, time of day etc.  Without that safe place of fragmented melodies and rhythms, the freedom of exploration was left wide open…a generative piece from both the composer’s point of view and the listeners.

In their lowercase way, it’s the acousmatic pieces that really thrill me on the long waves.  The album opens with “Bamboo”, a track that displays some incredible volume dynamics.  The piece runs the gamut from the sonically subtle opening to a penultimate flood of intense granular mid-range activity coupled with woofer damaging deeps…and then back again to the sparseness.  “Bamboo” provides opportunities to pilot the listener through a shifting lens of perspectives.

“the long waves on the surface and in dreams” is a black velvet acoustic painting that incorporates unknowable sounds materializing from depths of darkness.  Mostly quiet, the piece glides silently through uncanny and mysterious ecospheres.  Against the blackness, wraiths of shimmering, translucent sound objects appear, only for moments before fading.  Boundaries between shapes and void are revealed but again, only for moments.  (Let me say right now that the long waves would make excellent reference material to test good headphones!)

The shortest piece on the album, “Star” continues to demonstrate Crist’s excellent use of dynamics.  Stretched, granular sounds at varying degrees of rising and falling volume slingshot the listener through a cosmos of their own design.  A dramatic panorama of galactic shapes and a full pallet of colors are effortlessly suggested, but other senses are nudged into action too. For me, a feeling of size and place manifested itself as a tiny speck that hurtles through the cold/hot void.  For its brevity, “Star” is packed with cinematic content…Kubrick would have dug it!

The final piece, “riverride” returns the remote viewer to more earthly and aquatic domains. 

Maybe.

If a listener’s experience is influenced by song titles (and it’s hard not to be, see the above paragraph on “Star”), then I can see a possible ariel perspective alternating between low flying and panning out to a 5,000-foot view of the course of a river… hitting on tumultuous rage, slow-moving calmness, and even subterranean cave-like passages.

Sometimes I like to try and jettison the hints given by song titles and experience the sounds in the moment.  Granted, this may not be an easy task but one listening of “riverride” elicited a somber, lonely place.  M. John Harrison’s ambiguous city of Viriconium comes to mind.  In that light (and very much like Viriconium), I could not quite get a grasp on “riverride”.  I see a situation like this as more of a feature than a bug because, like I’ve said before in other write-ups…acousmatic music lends itself very well to multiple feelings, moods, and emotions with each revisit.

In the case of the long waves, I suspect a revisit will not be an arm-twisting activity.  This is an excellent first release from an artist who I hope to hear more from.  I hope some of you can check it out too…big thumbs up!

Mike Eisenberg
Meienberg1@hotmail.com
Twitter: @bigaudio999