CATALOG > Vivid Air
Passage (2009) was originally composed at the invitation of clarinetist F. Gerard Errante and first appears on recording as part of his Delicate Balance disc (AUREC 1001, 2010). In this work, performed for this recording by Tadej Kenig, the live acoustic clarinet is deeply melded into the textures of the electroacoustic component, yet is cast in the role of a solo voice presented with a minimum of signal processing in order to preserve the distinctive tone and character of the instrument. The musical concept of Passage developed out of my engagement in composing ambient music combined with my interest in sound processing and transformational elaboration in electroacoustic music. My goal was to create a composition that was on the cusp of avant-garde sensibilities (my over-arching approach to music) and more direct musical expressions emphasizing melodic materials within clearly drawn harmonic fields. To this end, the clarinet solo part is carefully blended into the texture of the work to emphasize and embellish passing harmonic implications throughout the sections of the composition. The song of the nightingale is featured prominently in the composition and especially in the final section where signal processing lends the song an otherworldly metallic sheen.
Vivid Air (2010) is a work that owes a great deal to the close collaboration of percussionist Stuart Gerber with whom I have collaborated on a number of works including Sanctum (2007, EMF Media) and Out of the Vivid Air (2009, AUREC 1002). The composition is organized into five gestural fields, as indicated by the sectional titles, but is continuous in sound. The various sections of the work emphasize specific groupings of sonic resources in the percussion instrumentation and also the overall timbral trending from sounds created by elaborated membranophones (drums played with objects coupled to them, such as clock chimes) toward metallic instruments and sound qualities, through small instruments and sounds of allusive origin, and finally returning to membranophones played in a more traditional manner. The formal design of Vivid Air presents interactions of solo percussion and electroacoustic sound interspersed with passages that are purely electroacoustic. In the spirit of acousmatic music, gestural qualities are paramount, yet the origins of the sounds is often obscured leading the listener into a sound world where the real and imaginary mingle veiling the authentic origins of the sounds. The use of percussion instrumentation is key to this goal of the composition as the sonic qualities of the solo percussion materials and composed gestures often blend significantly with the elements of the electroacoustic sounds creating new amalgams and sonic complexes.
The Ninth Wave (2001) was composed as a dedication to cellist Craig Hultgren. The form of the work is made up of nine distinct gestural fields and is continuous in sound. The materials of the electroacoustic component are created from transformations of ‘cello source recordings but also include sounds that are purely synthetic — such as the “vocal” sounds in the central section of the work which were created using a variation of the CHANT formant synthesis technique originally developed by Rodet.
Outward to Infinitude (2010) is a work of electroacoustic music that features various acoustic sound sources, such as piano, percussion, and strings, and transformations of them. In some ways this composition is reflective of my work in ambient music and was specifically composed for this recording.
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2010's Vivid Air would seem to be the quintessential Thompson release, seeing as how it literally melds the acoustic and electronic realms by backing solo instrumentalists with electro-acoustics. Once again contrast abounds, in this case due to the different sonic character that emerges in the respective works for clarinet, percussion, and cello, with the album's major work the thirty-two-minute title piece, a five-part setting for solo percussionist and electro-acoustics. The standouts, however, are the settings for clarinet and cello. The opening piece, “Passage,” which also appears on the Delicate Balance collection by clarinetist F. Gerard Errante, is heard here in a performance featuring Tadej Kenig. Thompson's entrancing composition embeds the sinuous lead voice of the acoustic clarinet within an electro-acoustic web of percussive accents and delicate harmonics, the parts cohering to form a floating whole where the clarinet suggests a nightingale's song heard amidst the shimmer of nighttime. Somewhat similar in spirit is “The Ninth Wave,” which features cellist Craig Hultgren, as here again the instrument's natural cry works differentiates it from the colder electro-acoustic accompaniment. There's a vocal quality to the cello playing that further humanizes and thereby elevates the piece.
Though separated formally into five sections, “Vivid Air” unfolds as a single, uninterrupted work, with percussionist Stuart Gerber navigating the piece's fluctuating moods. While the opening section is relatively placid, the third (“Volutions”) is ghostly and even disturbed, especially when long drawn-out creaks suggest the imminent collapse of an immense structure, and the fourth (“Vacuums”) agitated. Gerber becomes a veritable guide to the percussion section, with the timbral contrasts of chimes, drums, cymbals, and bells highlighted throughout its sections. At times, the percussion playing blends into the electro-acoustic accompaniment, while at other times the percussion playing is heard in isolation. A certain degree of acclimatization is required on the listener's part, as “Vivid Air” is not a percussion concerto where the soloist enthralls with bravura displays of technique; instead, the performer in this context acts as a rather self-effacing part of the whole to which he contributes. That Gerber stands out is due more to the contrasts that declare themselves between the percussive and electro-acoustic sounds. One final left turn emerges via the recording's closing piece, “Outward to Infinitude,” as it eschews a soloist altogether, opting instead to present a more representative example of Thompson's ambient electro-acoustic approach that one could easily imagine as a track on Blue Day.
~ Textura (2011)
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