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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Robin Hayward, Hilary Jeffery, Elena Kakaliagou - Words of Paradise (Edition Telemark, 2019) ****

 By Keith Prosk

Words of Paradise is a graphic score composed by Robin Hayward and documented here with a 2016 recording lasting 40 minutes and featuring Elena Kakaliagou (horn), Hilary Jeffery (trombone), and Hayward (microtonal tuba, tuning vine), a working group also known as Zinc & Copper. This trio has recorded before, on at least Ellen Arkbro’s For Organ and Brass, and Hayward and Jeffery have recorded together frequently in the last few years on Burkhard Beins/Clayton Thomas’ Rhythm Complication, Tonaliens’ eponymous release, and Splitter Orchester’s outings.

This composition is part of the trio’s Tubes of Babel project, in which they explore the parallels of the acoustic structure of brass instruments and the physiological structure of the human vocal mechanism. So, fittingly, Words of Paradise is inspired by Dutch linguist Johannes Goropius Becanus’ writings, which postulated that the Dutch dialect Brabantic was the language spoken in paradise, because the most ancient language must be the simplest language, Brabantic has a higher occurrence of simple syllable words than Latin, Greek, or Hebrew, and the most ancient language - the Adamic language - is used to confer with God. Continuing the theme of paradise, the seven circles of the graphic score see the harmony drift from unity in the central circle to disengagement in the outer circles, a metaphor for leaving paradise.

Words of Paradise sonically manifests both Bacanus’ linguistic progression and leaving paradise by using partial-valve and muting techniques to replicate simple syllable words similar to Brabantic that become increasingly complex, loud, and disengaged from the other harmonic lines. The whole performance features a faintly modulating electric hum or drone created by Hayward’s tuning vine, a software interface for exploring just intonation. The players start out with muted, short calls and responses that are quieter than the drone. A lot of breathy valve work. Inhalation. Lip smacking. Purrs. The hiss of breath like a valve releasing steam. Suction like tape pops. Embouchures like blowing raspberries. They are acid heralds. A bit earlier than halfway through the performance, Hayward’s tuba begins to resonate so deeply and forcefully that it feels like thousands marching ‘round Jericho. Soon, all players are blowing longer, then more complex, then louder lines. Each instrument phases in and then out of sync with each other, creating howling resonances and then disintegrated orchestral swells. By the end of the performance, it sounds like Babel.

Highly recommended for listeners that enjoy the heady, conceptual, yet emotive work of other Splitter alumni.

Words of Paradise is available digitally and on LP, which is a picture disc displaying the circular graphic score.


Keith said...

I've warmed to this quite a bit since submitting these words and, despite the inconspicuous rating, this is one of the 2019 recordings I've spent the most time thinking about and listening to and enjoying so far (along with McCowen's Mundanas I-V and Braxton's SGTM). Really recommended