Tracks from Soundcloud on Sunday: Stillness Before the Storm

In these parts a great summer heat has borne down, the last week or so, and so I remain interested in the various states of torridity, torpor, and the like that however unfortunately can accompany the current season – all of them intemperate conditions which, when they do arrive, come closer to us than our own skins, thus issuing everyone fair warning of the imminence of others very different in kind, as if it now were best to expect a sudden correction. Time’s odd dispensation that takes shape in the stillness before the storm, an occurrence spoken of often but fathomed seldom, is a temper or temporality that strikes the ear above all; hence of all the arts it should properly be music which might re-convey the brooding awareness of one’s placement right in the midst of the stasis, at the very same moment also holding out a refuge from that situation: in part it was this notion of sound’s special twofold capacity which encouraged me to assemble last week’s long playlist for summertime, and since then it’s continued to echo in the back of my mind.

Today’s offering of three tracks from Soundcloud, therefore, will be a bit of a coda to the earlier compilation: they’ve been drawn together along similar lines.

From California comes the first of them, a new tune called “Double Down” by the singer and songwriter Joshua Stinson. An intimate relationship nearly arrived at the point of breaking up is the subject of this song, and the feeling of a crisis is emitted both by the lyrics and by the music, although each in a different way: the former are written according to the jangle of a meter suggestive of the pointed exchange of talk and counter-talk, or the back-and-forth of serious words and sass, while the latter with its insistent rhythm sounds like the pace of someone who’s had more than enough and is barely holding himself together, yet who understands that the best way out of his present difficulties would be by one steady step after another.

Next up is a new work by a composer in Rome, Daniele Corsi, for violin and cello, entitled “Tre Epigrammi.” It’s a hard title to measure up to, certainly, as with epigrams the greatest amount of sense or wit should be packed into as few words as possible, and yet this work meets the challenge with notable esprit; what Corsi has written for these two instruments (Édua Zádory on violin, Ana Topalovic on cello) can be heard as representing in succession not only three epigrams, but also the quite divergent kinds of effort required of a reader who aims to glean their meaning. For if there are three of them, here the triptych may recall to mind the fact that an ἐπίγραμμα could originally have been an inscription or an epitaph as easily as it could be an epigram in the generic sense, that is, a few words even more compact and weighty, whose effect once incised or uttered could never be revoked or amended (but only obliterated), and for which therefore an even greater deliberation and forethought were essential. As a result, in Corsi’s music the concision of the one, the finality of the second, and the humor of the third sort are commingled, while each of this triad of qualities draws the outlines of the others into sharper relief.

The last track this evening is a mutant work of experimentation from a nameless denizen of Paris known only in an impenetrable acronym as LNL GCK. It has been equipped with no title, but designated only by the span of dates during which it presumably was pieced together, “15/10/12-01/03/13,” and throughout this work for double bass, flute, piano, piccolo, toy piano, viola, violin, and voices, it is the instruments themselves upon which the experiment is conducted. In this mad laboratory or workshop of studied artlessness, they are put to the test – and what a test it is! If any at all, what will be the sound they give off when subjected to these great stresses? In the process of finding out the answer, much of the character specific to each of them individually is stripped away, by the impact of a style of playing that can be likened to Francis Bacon’s disfiguring brushstrokes (who evidently is one of this composer’s favorite painters). Not much that was worthy of their name may remain to them by the end, but something interesting and even important has been learned, if one’s ears are tuned to hear it.

Postscript. I’ve been informed by Signor Corsi that “Tre Epigrammi” is actually an older work of his: it was composed in 2002.