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Review

Stuart Broomer, Signal to Noise, no. 13, September 1, 2000

This is a remarkable account of three improvising musicians recorded over four days in November 1997, but a much longer period of musical exchange has shaped the interaction of violinist Goldstein, percussionist Heward, and prepared guitarist Wiens. The six trio pieces and two duets by Goldstein and Wiens are improvisation in its purest form, reminiscent at times of some of the quieter editions of John Stevens’ Spontaneous Music Ensemble. Heward mentions in the notes that when “I think of and make improvised music I have images of water somewhere in and out of mind," and that will serve as ideal point of entry to this music making. It is, above all, fluid, making its own course, absorbing other materials, progressing at the rate that the terrain allows. But it is also its own terrain, with figure and ground never absolutely defined. Also elemental, it is so insistently engaged in time that it becomes effectively timeless. Like all good improvisation, it is utterly distinct, each piece and each voice necessarily itself, but it is so in such a way that all our individual descriptions must be some how similar. It’s quiet music that invites a moving point of view. Heward sounds Like he’s restricting himself to small instruments, while Wiens’ prepared guitar focuses on the minutiae of sound, so that one is often at a loss to identi fy who is making what sound, and how, at a particular moment. Part of the process of listening is to surrender that need, to wander into the music’s movement. Each player enjoys elliding tonalities, slides and glissandi and glassy rattlings that will recall the sonic world of Harry Partch. In this flux, one sometimes hears a passage in which a sound is so close and so necessary to Goldstein’s line that it is best identified not as drum or guitar, but as not-violin, the sympathy so strong that Goldstein might be playing one of his partners instruments. That blurring is especially strong around grating sounds, a metallic rubbing that often acts to rub parts together. At other times, a player will enter the discourse in such a marked way as to make you wonder how he had been previously absent. The two duets are, I think less successful than the trios, Heward too large a component for this music to surrender. The results seem suddenly, and only, binary, Goldstein becoming too markedly linear Wiens more fixed. Otherwise, this has the lulling gentleness of water, that gentleness that will erode mountains.

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