Catalog Number: PM15
Release Date: Nov 18th, 2022
Formats: Digital, Vinyl, Cassette
“a soundscape that evokes aspects of the vintage Downtown Scene — the home turf of Bill Laswell and John Zorn — while maintaining a contemporary foundation.” — WRTI/NPR
“an eerie ambient take on this magical music ” — NPR All Songs Considered
“Ave Maria combines a masterful harp performance from Mary Lattimore with Doxas’s meandering woodwind, gently billowing electronics and the late addition of a softly pulsing kick drum.” — The Predatory Wasp
“The improvised soundscapes on the album are both sonically brave and mindful of von Bingen's legacy.” — Loudness
“Melodic fragments, daring dashes and swerves into glowing drones” — Tome to the Weather Machine
Chet Doxas (woodwinds) and Micah Frank (electronics) began performing and recording together in 2018. With a mutual love of jazz, experimental music and avant-garde compositions, the two formed an immediate bond as musicians. Their free-form improvising and sound collage style was captured on their first album as a duo, 2019’s All The Roads.
They continued delving into the intersection of experimental and electronic music by creating their residency series - Variations for Dusk - at the Fotografiska museum in New York City. On their new album, The Music of Hildegard von Bingen Part 1, they bring their open-ended approach to four of von Bingen’s pieces along with one original composition.
Doxas was introduced to von Bingen during his studies at McGill University in Montreal. “My counterpoint teacher spoke about her holistic approach to writing music. The natural world played a big part in her compositional voice. I’ve gleaned inspiration from her, allowing outside influences in my life to blend with my musical ideas. When I improvise with Micah, he often includes drones in his sound, while I play single note melodies or improvisations. This pairing is similar to early music, with a melody over the cantus firmus.”
“We realized much of our work sounds like early medieval or Renaissance music,” Frank said. “We searched for a composer to help confine our composition and production process to these early music elements. Von Bingen’s compositions were perfect for our production and instrumental style.”
With the help of their guests – harp player, Mary Lattimore; guitarist, David Torn; bass player, Michael Formanek and drummer, Jason Nazary – the duo delves deeply into the nuances of von Bingen’s compositions.
The album opens with their own “Silva Ignis”. A continuous tape loop is accented by a sprinkling of percussives and synthetic voices. Layers of room tones and field recordings interweave in a dialog of stray sonic objects. It delivers an introduction to the album that is both a nod to the duo’s concrète influences and a showcase of their intrepid recording processes.
The second track, “Ave Maria” unfolds as a spacious narrative highlighting a masterful harp performance by Mary Lattimore. At its onset, a lone tape loop introduces an approaching spectrum of intricate sound design. Doxas’s woodwind voice sits atop the mix with shy interspersed, melodic fragments.
Frank and Doxas were crafting “O Ignee Spiritus” by layering cassette loops of woodwinds, electronics and the eventual clarinet melody when they reached out to guitarist, David Torn, for the final touches. Torn’s iconic guitar adds bass accents to swirling soundscapes, complemented by distorted, crashing crescendos that slowly fade into silence.
On the piece, “O Vis Eternitatis”, the duo asked their friend and frequent collaborator, Kodomo, to take their track into his crystalline sound world and see what happens. The result is a cinematic sequence of detailed sound design interspersed with von Bingen’s original melody - played by Doxas - and Frank’s modular synthesizer flourishes.
“Nunc Aperuit” was a late addition to the album. Frank and Doxas had just invited bassist Michael Formanek to join them as their special guest at one of their residency evenings and we’re so enthralled with his playing that they decided to add another track to the recording. Formanek’s mastery of his instrument is evident as he delivers the melody with a caring yet powerful interpretation.
“Because the pieces resemble one another on paper, the challenge was creating different sonic worlds for each piece, while honoring the compositions,” Doxas said. “Micah and I grew from this experience by having to work within self-imposed musical limits, to honor another composer. We’ve gotten better at generating a lot of material out of small bits of information.”
“It was exciting to bring in new musicians and collaborators to work with,” Frank added. “Each artist brought a different process, personality and virtuosity to the production.”