AMN Reviews: Phill Niblock – NuDaf [Xi Records XI 145/AKOH 145]; Tom Chiu – The Live One [Xi 144]

NuDaf an hour-long, electroacoustic drone work, is the newest release from composer Phill Niblock. Composed in 2020, the piece is constructed out of a series of recordings bassoonist Dafne Vicente-Sandoval made in Cologne in 2015, some of which were used in Niblock’s shorter, 2016 composition Praised Fan. For NuDaf, Niblock layered Vicente-Sandoval’s long tones rather sparingly, creating unisons, near-unisons separated by microtones, and slowly-changing, sometimes startling harmonies. Because Niblock avoids building massive blocks of sound, the piece is dense yet always harmonically legible.

Violinist/composer Tom Chiu also offers a layered electroacoustic work on The Live One, a two-CD set that features Chiu in solo, duo, trio, and quartet settings, most of which were captured live. It is a fine portrait of a versatile artist. The piece is Into the Forest (2011), whose basic material is a set of brief violin passages processed and assembled (by Terence Pender) into a moving work by turns melodic and abstract. RETROCON (2015) for string quartet, is a relentlessly dynamic, dramatic piece performed by the Flux Quartet (Chiu and Conrad Harris on violins; Max Mandel on viola; and Felix Fan on cello) the recurring theme to which is an undulating swarm of arpeggiated chords seemingly threatening to tip over into an abyss of emotional chaos. Chiu’s Duo Improvisation 16741 with modular synthetist Michael Schumacher, recorded live in 2017, likewise takes as its starting point a rapidly bowed arpeggio, but it very quickly develops into a broad exploration of pure sound and extended technique. Extended technique is also very much on display in BABIP, a live solo recording from 2008. The wryly titled deKonstrukt (2013) is another live solo performance, but here Chiu in fine postmodern form appropriates quotations from classical music’s past which he juxtaposes and loops with original material as well. The Live One also includes a 2020 beat-driven trio improvisation with Dan Joseph on hammer dulcimer and Jason Candy on modular synthesizer and beats.

Daniel Barbiero

Flux Quartet in New York Reviewed


BargeMusic, Old Fulton Street, Brooklyn 07/17/2009

Here and Now: American Contemporary Music Series:
Don Byron: Thoughts on Marvin Gaye
Iván Naranjo: Vibrating Soundless Hum (World Premiere)
David Lang: Wed
Alvin Lucier: Group Tapper (New York Premiere)
Katherine Young: Inside UFO 53-32 (World Premiere)
Giacinto Scelsi: String Quartet No. 2 (for String Quartet and Metallic Mutes)

Flux Quartet: Tom Chiu (Violin), Conrad Harris (Violin), Max Mandel (Viola), Felix Fan (Cello)

On a muggy, rain-sodden evening in Brooklyn, the Flux Quartet provided a program that seemed to be made for lazy reviewers. The titles, in fact, said it allWhat more do we need to know about Vibrating Soundless Hum. Or Alvin Lucier’s Group Tapper? That’s easy. Some musicians sit around and tap. Even the iconic composer Giacinto Scelsi made things graphic, his string quartet written for four players and “metallic mutes”. If they’re mute, why bother to even listen? When it came to David Lang’s Wed, it would obviously be cancelled, since the concert was on Fri.

But this isn’t the way the dynamic young Flux Quartet operates. The four players not only play, they compose, , they work with stars like Yo-yo Ma and Ornette Coleman, DJ Spooky, Meryl Streep and Tiny Tim, they improvise over radio scripts/ And this afternoon (Saturday), they will be playing music based on drawings submitted by an audience.

In other words, the Flux Quartet is the face of avant-garde music. And their program last night for a full house at BargeMusic was evidence of their fans.

Also, see the review in today’s New York Times.

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