Transient Canvas releases their second recording on New Focus, "Wired", continuing to document their work commissioning music for bass clarinet and marimba, this time featuring works including electronics. This diverse collection includes works by Kirsten Volness, Peter Van Zandt Lane, David Ibbett, Lainie Fefferman, Rudolf Rojahn, Mischa Salkind-Pearl, and Dan VanHassel.
|01||Year Without a Summer|
Year Without a Summer
Bass clarinet and marimba duo Transient Canvas release their second recording on New Focus, “Wired”, continuing to chronicle their tireless work commissioning young composers to write for their instrumentation. “Wired” focuses on works written for the duo with electronics.
The recording opens with Kirsten Volness’ work Year Without a Summer. Inspired by the impact a volcanic explosion in Indonesia ultimately had on wide reaching locations in Virginia, New England, and Europe, Volness’ rock inspired work creates a haunting atmosphere. In her program note, she asks the question, "As climate change and conflict continue to cause hunger, will we tap our toes in the little cantina at the end of the world?”
Peter Van Zandt Lane’s Exergy Bubblebath channels the rhythmic energy of 90s electronic music and acid house and the pitch language of late period serialist Stravinsky. A freer second section features a bass clarinet melody with marimba chordal accompaniment, before the infectious groove reenters briefly at the very end of the work.
Like the Volness, David Ibbett’s Branches revels in a pop influenced electronics track, establishing and then subverting expectations as the piece unfolds.
Lainie Fefferman’s Hyggelig consists of wavelike descending arpeggios in the marimba that emerge and recede, as the clarinet alternates between wind sounds and sustained long tones. By the end of the piece, the clarinetist has adopted the fleet arpeggiations of the marimba.
Somnambula by Rudolf Rojahn depicts being stuck in a perpetual waking dream, unable to escape. A harmonic cycle repeats as rhythmic material becomes increasingly complex, but the protagonists remain unable to escape the dreamstate.
Mischa Salkind-Pearl’s solm aims to mimic the experience of hearing the sounds of a foreign language without understanding the words. Fragmented sounds dot the instrumental and electronic parts as one might hear the component syllables of words divorced from their meaning. The listener enters into a vague, disconcerting sound world that captures the isolating sensation of being unable to understand a language.
Dan VanHassel’s Epidermis merges the clarinet and marimba into one entity playing syncopated rhythms, while the electronics provide a “noisy, protective layer.” As the piece progresses, the electronics become noisier and more disconnected from the instruments, which become more melodic.
Transient Canvas’ performances throughout this diverse set of new works are meticulously coordinated and persuasive across varied stylistic contexts.
– D. Lippel
Program notes for Tracks 1-4, 6 & 7 by the composers; Track 5 by Matt Sharrock
Boston-based contemporary duo Transient Canvas is on a mission to revolutionize the modern concert experience. Since 2011, their innovative performances have been praised as “superb” by the Boston Globe and “disarming” by Cleveland Classical, with the San Francisco Chronicle lauding “the versatile imagination they both display and inspire in others.” Bass clarinetist Amy Advocat and marimbist Matt Sharrock relish the creative potential of working with living composers, having amassed a varied repertoire of over 80 commissioned works in addition to working with hundreds of student composers from all over the world. They maintain an active touring schedule with recent performances at the Charlotte New Music Festival, Red Note Festival, Music on the Edge, Ethos New Music Society, People Inside Electronics, Music at the Forefront, and New Music Gathering, among others. They have two albums, Sift and Wired, both released on New Focus Recordings. Transient Canvas proudly endorses Henri Selmer Paris, Conn-Selmer, and Marimba One.http://www.transientcanvas.com/
Proudly flying the flag for the bass clarinet-marimba duet, Amy Advocat and Matt Sharrock are committed to expanding the repertoire for this slightly off-kilter instrumental combo. They commissioned all the music on this album, and the result is a fantastic series of mood shifts, from the jumpy Aphex-Twin-meets-serialism of Peter Van Zandt Lane’s Exergy Bubblebath to the noisy, unsettling soundscape of Dan VanHassel’s Epidermis.
-David Weininger, 12.19.18, Boston Globe
Transient Canvas is a bass clarinet (Amy Advocat) and marimba (Matt Sharrock) duo that actively commissions new works for their unique instrumentation. Wired (New Focus Recordings) is the group’s second album of works exclusively written for them and features compositions by Kirsten Volness, Peter Van Zandt Lane, David Ibbett, Lainie Fefferman, Rudolf Rojahn, Mischa Salkind-Pearl, and Dan VanHassel. Every composition on this album incorporates electronic sounds interacting with the duo’s acoustic sounds.
The first work on the album, Year Without a Summer by Kirsten Volness, is an atmospheric electronic soundscape that weaves elongated bass clarinet melodies into the warm texture of the marimba. Sounds melt from the bass clarinet into the electronic track and flow into the marimbas percussive interjections. The high pitched electronics provide the icy feeling of loneliness as suggested by the title. The work develops into an eventual groove that descends into a conflict between the marimba and bass clarinet, and the background electronics fade in and out of the texture like a spirit passing between worlds.
In Peter Van Zandt Lane’s Exergy Bubblebath, small transducers on Sharrock’s mallets trigger sampled electronic sounds that add complexity to each marimba sound. The overt references to 90s electronic music is evident in the laser effects that fly by in the sonic space around the ascending unison arpeggios that create a rhythmic groove, accented by synthetic percussive sounds triggered by the marimba mallets.
Next up is David Ibbett’s Branches, a work that juxtaposes the upper register of marimba and the lower warmth of the bass clarinet register. A sense of meter is provided by consistent and dry percussive loops over which lyrical melodies float, and the piece is structured around a dream-like marimba solo. Advocat’s bass clarinet sound reaches peak density in this work.
The fourth work on the album is Hyggelig by Lainie Fefferman. The composition’s title is a Danish adjective that means “cozy and comfortable.” Hyggelig begins with air sounds that morph into bass clarinet pitch, exploring the spectrum between air and pure tone that encapsulates a wind instrument. Seeing this work performed live would benefit the listening experience, as it can be difficult for the listener to discern whether sounds are coming from the performer or the computer–but this shortcoming is common of recorded electroacoustic music. These simple explorations of the threshold where air meets tone lead into more complex multiphonics, aided by dissonant clusters of marimba pitches conflicting with the bass clarinet tones. Post-minimal presentations of repeated three-note gestures flirt with the spectral sounds of the opening to create a hybrid style often heard in 21st century concert venues.
Somnambula by Rudolf Rojahn explores the relationship between space and resonance, intersecting through explorations in timbre. Simple melodic lines permeate the work, presented in orbits that echo and rotate around the listener. In this work, simple sounds are made complex through timbre manipulation, gestures morph with each subsequent presentation providing continuity yet freshness, beautifully executed for a pleasurable listening experience.
Mischa Salkind-Pearl‘s Solm explores sounds that exist on the fringe. The relationship between attack and resonance is explored throughout this work through the prism of response. The bass clarinet lives on the edge of response, dancing between fundamentals and overtones, weaving in and out of sonic existence in a tantric dance with the electronic track. Finger clicks melt into scratches, scrapes, and ripping sounds of destruction, or rather construction, as morse code rhythms float overhead. A veiled woman’s voice emerges, heard through a wall, and the entire work leaves one feeling like they are on the verge of clarity, trying to remember something at the back of their mind.
The final work is Dan VanHassel’s Epidermis. A primal yet machine-like consistent pulse is present throughout the work, interrupted by guttural screams from the bass clarinet with veiled technological sounds (jet engines, static, sirens) in the background. The processed marimba sounds evoke a primal creature meeting modern machines, eventually morphing into a post-minimal process-oriented groove. Contemporary styles are mix with traditional sounds of each instrument, made foggy and hazy through electronic manipulation and transitioning the listener through the lens of time. The work, and subsequently the album, ends like an old television being turned off–with a clean cut-off of all electronic sounds in an upward blip.
Advocat and Sharrock’s precision and control is pristine; their unique blend of bass clarinet and marimba is lush. The added electroacoustic component adds depth and creates entire worlds, orchestrated in such vast spaces that it is easy to forget that one is listening to a duo. Transient Canvas is a tour de force, and this record is a must-add to any new music-lover’s library, showcasing that a duo can be much more than two musicians.
-Matthew Younglove, 12.28.18, I Care If You Listen
On Wired the acoustic duo Transient Canvas—bass clarinetist Amy Advocat and marimbist Matt Sharrock—are indeed wired. Most of the seven pieces on the CD, which the duo commissioned between 2014 and 2017, supplement the basic reed and percussion ensemble with electronic sounds of one kind or another.
Many of the compositions reflect the influence of rock or other recent popular music: they may have discernible, song-like harmonic cycles or well-defined rhythms, or both. But that’s just a jumping-off point; these are influences to be reworked, dismantled and reassembled into something particular to each composer. Exergy Bubblebath, for example, a 2015 composition by Peter VanZandt Lane, takes explicit inspiration from the dance music of the 1990s but refigures it in a series of deftly executed, rapid unison figures for bass clarinet and marimba while electronic sounds ricochet in the background. Syncopation propels Dan Van Hassel’s Epidermis (2017), which breaks up into twitchy repetitions of fragmentary phrases covered in a skin of electronic sounds. Kirsten Volness’s Year Without a Summer (2017) opens with deep, brooding electronic tones before developing into a movingly plaintive bass clarinet melody placed over arpeggiated chords on marimba. Branches, a 2015 composition by David Ibbett, sets out rock rhythms in changing time signatures recalling some of the more challenging kinds of progressive rock; from there, it swerves into an infectiously upbeat outro. Somnambula (2014), by Rudolf Rojahn, repeats a relatively simple but haunting melody over a cyclic song structure, which it then takes through a series of variations. On the more abstract side, Lainie Fefferman’s Hyggelig (2016), which appears to be a purely acoustic piece for Advocat and Sharrock alone, moves in free-floating trills and measured lines. Mischa Salkind-Pearl’s solm (2016) captures in musical analogy the experience of hearing a foreign language whose meanings one doesn’t understand: what stands out are the prosody as well as bits and pieces of phonics with the semantics stripped out. Accordingly, the music is fragmented and focused on the sound qualities of the instruments, enriched by an electronic overlay.
-Daniel Barbiero, 12.3.18, Avant Music News
A duo of bass clarinet and marimba is a most unusual thing. But if you think of it beyond the initial surprise, there is a sonorous logic to it. It is not like we haven't heard the combination before. So we have the New-England based duo Transient Canvas and their latest album Wired (New Focus Recordings 218). Amy Advocat plays the bass clarinet, Matt Sharrock the marimba. They are joined by what sounds like ambient electro-acoustics now and again but principally it is these two holding forth nicely in a series of some seven Contemporary New Music compositions.
Sometimes there are patterns to the music that repeat, more in the manner of an Alberti Bass at times, though not exactly, just in the way the pattern grounds the music in something that is then a launching ahead into not-repetitive elements layering into the pattern. There is a flirtation with Minimalism without necessarily a consummation, if you will pardon the turn of phrase. At the same time there are vaguely world-jazz-rock elements (which in a way is another way of saying "not-quite-Alberti"?)
So we get a virtuoso duo series of performances that are always geared toward the aims and objectives of each composition rather than sensation for its own sake, so to speak. The music is consistently absorbing, not perhaps at the cutting edge of the avant extreme, but ever musical and worthy of hearing. The names of the composers may not necessarily ring a bell for you, but this is not amateur hour either. So we hear Kirsten Volness, Peter Van Zandt Lane, David Ibbett, Lainie Fefferman, Rudolf Rojahn, Mischa Salkind-Pearl, and Dan VanHassel.
You who like the sound of these instruments and/or like chamber realms of the contemporary a little bit off the beaten track, this is good bet! Transient Canvas is a happy listen!
-Grego Applegate Edwards, 12.28.18, Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review
The latest creation of the American duo Transient Canvas, Wired continues the exploratory work undertaken by Amy Advocat (bass clarinet) and Matt Sharrock (marimba) on their first release Sift. Once again, the musicians display undeniable technical know-how, obvious complicity and an in-depth understanding of the artistic vision of the composers who contributed to Wired. Dedicated to the interpretation of current works, this duo offers seven premieres with surprisingly varied styles that boldly exploit the possibilities of two instruments to which electronic devices are added. The result is strikingly original and flirts with avant-garde jazz aesthetics as well as the electro music of the early 1990s (Exergy Bubblebath). Even hammered rhythms reminiscent of dance music (Branches) are borrowed. The instruments also escape the melodic and percussive roles traditionally attributed to them, giving the pieces an unpredictable character reinforced by the absence of rigid formal structures. Whether a succession of short rhythmic and melodic syncopated motifs (Epidermis) or the slow development of abundant sound masses (Hyggelig), the different elements and sections of the pieces are linked together with naturalness and present a great cohesion, registering everything in a rich musical universe and perfectly coherent where one is sometimes surprised and keeps time with one’s foot.
-Arnaud G. Veydarier, 2.4.19, La Scena Musicale
Wanna know two sounds I love? Marimba and bass clarinet. Wanna know how I know? This disc is how. Transient Canvas is the duo in question, and their recent release is Wired. Each track features the duo plus electronics, mercifully the latter enhancing rather than distracting from the acoustic sounds.
I’m writing in a manner as close as I can manage to their joyful goofy playing (clean and excellent goofiness, disciplined joy). This is like listening to two of your favourite flavours, say dark chocolate and roasted almonds, that go really well together. Or listening to two of your most beloved colours, say turquoise and deep brown, that set one another off, yet seamlessly blend. Much of the material is pop-sounding enough that the madness of the harmonies and jagged rhythms don’t jar the ear, they toy with it.
It isn’t because it’s all from one composer who gets them or caters to their strengths: each track is from a different composer. Maybe the two (Amy Advocat on bass clarinet, Matt Sharrock on marimba) are really good at commissioning only composers who get them, or maybe the composers themselves just can’t find a way to put them off their game. After three bouncy tracks, there’s a complete change of pace in Hyggelig (Danish for chillaxin’), by Lainie Fefferman. The longest cut, at almost 11 minutes, is the aptly solemn solm by Mischa Salkind-Pearl. The final track, Epidermis by Dan VanHassel, is the most hard-core progressive, yet kinda bebop. Peter Van Zandt Lane’s Exergy Bubblebath wins the Most Whimsical Title award.
-Max Christie, 1.29.19, The WholeNote
A marimba and a bass clarinet are just two instruments, but in the hands of the duo Transient Canvas they sound like an orchestra. These Boston musicians — bass clarinetist Amy Advocat and marimbist Matt Sharrock — have made it a mission to build up a robust body of new music for their distinctive combination of forces, and their latest release, “Wired,” is an eloquent testament to the versatile imagination they both display and inspire in others.
There are seven pieces included here, each one beautiful and invigorating in its own way. (Electronics are often part of the blend, which somehow only makes the range of compositional strategies on display more striking.) The leadoff selection, Kirsten Volness’ irresistible “Year Without a Summer,” exemplifies the combination of flavors here – the music is both atmospheric and rhythmically catchy, in ways that make use of the duo’s characteristic colorings.
The other works draw on these strains in various proportions, from the gently welcoming stasis of Lainie Fefferman’s “Hyggelig” or the roiling sweetness of Rudolf Rojahn’s lovely “Somnambula” to the funky machine music of Dan VanHassel’s “Epidermis.” Each composer puts an individual spin on these resources.
-Joshua Kosman, 3.20.19, San Francisco Chronicle
Wired is the second album released by Boston-based duo, Transient Canvas, featuring a diverse collection of works for bass clarinet, marimba and electronics. Members Amy Advocat (bass clarinet) and Matt Sharrock (marimba) commissioned all of the works included on this album. The project serves to document the duo’s ongoing effort to expand the repertoire for this unique instrumentation and further their self-proclaimed mission to “revolutionize the modern concert experience.”
All of the works included on the album vary greatly in style yet work well together to create a unique musical experience that defies traditional means of classification. The opening track, Year Without a Summer, is a programmatic work about the consequences surrounding a volcanic eruption and climate change. Advocat and Sharrock’s performance is marked with great sensitivity and nuance that coalesce with electronics to produce a perfectly balanced chamber ensemble. A quiet opening marked with interjections of bluesy, soulful bass clarinet playing gives way to exciting rhythmic passages that effectively take the listener on an entrancing journey through a sonic landscape that ends in a similar manner to which it began. Exergy Bubblebath, Branches and Epidermis showcase Advocat’s technical prowess with exuberant bass clarinet lines that join the marimba, played over electronic grooves that are a nod to popular music styles. Hyggelig and Somnambula once again showcase the duo’s ability to blend seamlessly with electronics to present a spellbinding musical aesthetic. Advocat’s tasteful approach to extended techniques in Solm fuses into an ethereal texture where it is difficult to decipher where acoustic instrument ends and electronics begin.
Wired is a wonderful compilation of works that showcase the capabilities of this combination of instruments and electronics. Advocat and Sharrock perform with great technical skill and musical sensitivity that are a perfect vehicle for artistic expression. Included with the album are notes about the compositions, with additional information available on the Transient Canvas website http://www.transientcanvas.com/wired-album. The production value of this album is also quite noteworthy, especially in regard to the balanced mix of bass clarinet, marimba and electronics. This album would be a wonderful addition to the collection of anyone looking to explore works that are refreshingly original and performed by a first-rate ensemble. Highly recommended!
— Karl Kolbeck, 9.15.2020