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Friday, October 25, 2013

Kyle Gann, Long Night, For Three Pianos

The Cold Blue series of CDs gives us access to many interesting works in an ambient, "radical tonality" soundscape zone. Today, one in their singles series, a 25-minute piece for three pianos by Kyle Gann. Long Night (Cold Blue 0019) features the totally appropriate playing of Sarah Cahill, who overdubs all three parts.

The music is a slowly unfolding, minor diatonic sonic map. It is as if you are traversing a landscape dotted with multiple features, each feature a note series. The three piano interplay has a post Satie-esque gentleness. At first a very slow ostinato pattern underpins the diatonic melodic simultaneity and it reminds in some ways like the slowly random dripping of rain from a roof after a storm. The ostinato has slow tempo regularity and the melodic figures occurring on top are nicely random in terms of periodicity. The ostinato and its recurrence has a quasi-drone way about it that gives this music an almost Indian classical quality, like the slow alap section of a raga only less purposive. From the initial ostinato comes new figures that play against the raindrop melodics. But it all flows together as a processual experience with a singleness of musical personality.

The sound is somehow like something out of nature, random seeming yet staying in the realm of the minor diatonic tonality consistently. Then, towards the middle, the key shifts and with it the melodic figures become more dense. It changes the music up nicely and allows our ears a refreshment that moves things forward.

There may be others in the Cold Blue series that I would get first if I hadn't heard any of them yet. But in the end Kyle Gann's Long Night opens up an ambient world that one can inhabit frequently as a place to repose, perhaps meditate on life. Well done.

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