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Thursday, October 31, 2019

Pauline Kim Harris, Heroine, Reimagining Bach and Ockeghem

Today we savor more of the "old in the new," the Modern in the early, the re-imagining and aural re-staging of the past into New Music.  We consider today Heroine (Sono Luminous 92235), an Ambient New Music foray into Bach's Chaconne from the Partita No. 2 in D minor ("Ambient Chaconne") and Ockeghem's "Deo Gratias" ("Deo") for violin and electronics, all composed by Harris and Spencer Topel.

Where these two works go are into a spacey ambient place. Part of the roots are in the old Fripp and Eno classics, part are firmly in the Early Music past, parts just speak directly to me (us) as contemporary cosmicalities.

The violin part is central--sometimes incorporated simultaneously into the electronics haze, sometimes standing apart in a solo-versus-collective "orchestral" backdrop sense. Delay-echo can play a contrapuntal role esp in "Deo" and/or it can embellish the main line.

In the music of "Ambient Chaconne" live and pre-recorded violin join together with electronics. The work begins as earlier recompositions of the original Bach work with foundational transcriptions of passages from the original and weaves all of them together in a carpet of ambiance, as "structural underpinnings," "small dissociated fragments" and as extremes of "extended passages of sounded or silent materials." It sounds as simultaneously and linearly a microscopic reconstruction of the inside of the music, ethereal and movingly memorable.

"Deo" takes Johannes Ockeghem's remarkable 36-part cannon from "Deo Gratias" and extends the contrapuntal nexus to nearly infinite levels so that in the end it becomes a simultaneous burst of musical light most beautiful to hear and behold.

The music comes out of Kim's profound experience appreciating the tending to afflicted loved ones and experiencing loss in the widest senses from illness, whether physical or via mental illness, depression or addiction, or from growing distrust and general malaise in a growingly destabilized world. The music sounds to me as an antidote to all the suffering implied in our times and no doubt Harris and Topel mean it as such. It is a kind of tribute to the ministering angels of healing we experience for self or others when the world or our bodies seem at odds with life as we mean it to live, or anyway that is my interpretation of the notes she has penned for us in the liners.

In the all and all of it this is music you can grow into and occupy like living room furniture, or so it seems to me. It is not easy-chair ears (as Ives called it) that are developed so much as an organic living reconstruction, an internal dwelling inside fragments and wholes of earlier music as a way of being and hearing. It is delightful, majestic, and cosmic fare. I do recommend it for its spacious girth. Hear-hear!

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