By Stef Gijssels
On "Models Of Duration", we get treated to the unusual sound of John McCowen's contrabass clarinet in four lengthy pieces.
McCowen's skill on the instrument is second to none, and as is often the case at a first listen, the listener will wonder of how the sound is produced - with no electronics or amplification involved - to have this sustained and multiphonic effect at the same time. I share the video below to show his circular breathing skills.
Apart from a technical feat, this is also an incredible physical achievement. The album's title is well chosen in this respect because the minor vibrations and shifts in the otherwise monotonous sound take their time to develop, to grow into and to fully appreciate. Apart from the technique and the physical effort, the album's main quality is musical. The unusual sounds create a unique sonic universe that is hypnotic, soothing and terrifying at the same time. It requires concentrated listening to become part of the sound, and doing so is both rewarding as stupefying.
Colleague Keith Prosk interviewed John McCowen two years ago. For those interested, McCowen is not the only artist who releases solo contrabass clarinet albums. Josh Sinton also released one in 2017, called Krasa.
Listen and download from Bandcamp.
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