Another Timbre TimHarrisonbre
at30 nella basilica
Roberto Fabbriciani bass, contrabass and hyperbass flutes
Robin Hayward microtonal tuba
1. nella basilica 15:06
2. adagio 10:47
3. riflessione 7:56
4. colori di cimabue 6:54
5. arezzo 4:18
recorded in the Basilica di San Domenico, Arezzo, Italy, September 2009
“ Flautist Roberto Fabbriciani is renowned for his performances of works by modern composers, most notably Luigi Nono. Before this session he had not recorded improvisations, although he and tuba player Robin Hayward had together performed some of Nono's late works. Both musicians have developed their instruments, Hayward using a new microtonal valve system, and Fabbriciani his self-designed hyperbass flute—over twelve metres of tubing! The latter produces fearsome sounds at the lower threshold of human hearing, meaning they are felt in the internal organs as much as heard.
Overall, the combination of tuba and the lower frequency flutes creates a bottom-heavy soundscape in which boundaries between tuba and flutes are blurred. This is embellished by the players' percussive sounds—pad noise from the flutes and impact on the body of the tuba—and the characteristic whistling wind-tunnel sound of breath passing through the instruments' tubing. Otherwise, it is the lingering, slowly-evolving tones of the instruments that dominate. There are no rapidly-articulated passages here; everything moves at a stately pace, allowing plenty of time to wallow in the varied textures of the sounds. That hyperbass flute, in particular, is not played hurriedly; maybe it is physically impossible to do so. As a result, it sustains notes long enough to border on a drone effect, with the tuba overlaid. Awesome. “ John Eyles, All About Jazz
“Flute and tuba might sound like an odd pairing, until you learn that Roberto Fabbriciani plays bass, contrabass and hyperbass flutes, the latter a plumber's nightmare of his own design consisting of over 25 feet of tubing and capable of sounding notes below the range of the piano. Indeed, it's often hard to tell who's playing what, and the players seem to delight in trying to trick us, with Robin Hayward's microtonally inflected tuba producing surprisingly delicate flurries of notes in registers normally associated with the flute, while Fabbriciani growls and purrs at the lower threshold of hearing. The instruments are even harder to tell apart when played more unconventionally, whether huffing and puffing without pitch or clicking key pads. As you might expect, such huge beasts aren't capable of making much noise or moving quickly, but just because the music is quiet and takes its time doesn't mean it's cold and unemotional. There's something tender and sensual about this fuzzy gurgling, like a couple of hippos making love.” Dan Warburton, The Wire
“Fabbriciani (bass, contrabass and hyperbass flutes) is a new name to me, someone from whom I hope to hear much more. Here we have five pieces with Robin Hayward and the combination of flutes (albeit low ones) and tuba is delicious. As with most of the music of Hayward's that I've experienced, this is serious stuff but it's never, ever dry. Instead, the setting inside the Basilica di San Domenico in Arezzo imparts a contemplative, even reverent (in a good way!) aura. It's almost all very quiet and, though extended techniques are used by both musicians, the listener hardly notices as it's the music that comes to the forefront. I want to say "European shakuhachi"; there's something of that here. Some ruffles in the air appear on the fourth track, a not unwelcome change of pace, but by and large this is as lovely a recording of paired winds as I've heard in quite some time. Strongly recommended.”
Brian Olewnick, Just Outside
“Nella Basilica is the title of a new album on Another Timbre by the duo of Robin Hayward and Roberto Fabbriciani. It comes as part of the newest batch of four AT releases, all of which are acoustic duos, and more specifically each involves a brass instrument of some kind, thus creating the informal “Brass” series to follow on from the equally imprecise piano and guitar series from the same label. If the name Fabbriciani is a new one to improvised music followers then maybe this isn’t a surprise, given that this disc captures his first ever improvisation release. The flautist is better known however for his realisations of many works by Luigi Nono amongst a long list of contemporary composers. Reading his CV is impressive, he has worked directly with just about everyone, from Cage to Kurtag, Stockhausen to Scelsi. His website even hints that he might have a fanclub. I’m not sure anyone else I’ve ever reviewed here can say that! Given that he plays on my favourite recording of Nono’s wonderful Das Atmende Klarsein I may well try and join myself…
On Nella Basilica the two musicians each play the instruments for which they are best known, but at the same time each plays a different, adapted version. Robin Hayward plays a newly adapted tuba that has been adjusted to include a fully microtonal valve system. Fabbriciani plays bass, contrabass and hyperbass flutes, the last one of which doesn’t sound overly dramatic until you read that it is apparently gargantuan in size containing over twelve feet of plastic tubing. It produces bass tones so low they stretch the lower limits of human hearing. Anyway, that’s the sleevenotes rewritten as a prelude to this review, how does the music sound?
The word that comes to mind, after much consideration is balanced. I have been fortunate enough to have been able to spend a couple of months with this music, since Simon, perhaps knowing my love of Nono gave me a CDr to listen to and give my opinion on. I have played it a lot, and come to know the music here well. Throughout the music, looking at it from varying perspectives, I feel and hear a sense of balance throughout. While not something you could really call reductionist with any conviction, Nella Basilica is a quiet, gently paced set of five pieces. The mood of the music is studious, and each sound we hear feels like it has been very carefully picked out and placed beside the others after a longer amount of time than we know could have been feasibly possible. Perhaps then the music sounds close to a realised composition, or maybe Fabbriciani’s involvement here just leads me to imagine the music that way. Certainly the pair first met while performing Nono’s music together in the same ensembles, perhaps some of that experience informed the collaboration.
Although it is often very hard to tell who is making which sound as so much happens in the lower registers occupied by both instruments, the chosen sounds seem to complement the ones around them very well, so the music feels balanced, a short sound offset by a longer one, a dry hiss paired with something more tonal, but all taking place within quite a slim range, with few surprises but instead a feeling of precision and considered placement. The music here reminds me somehow of a Calder mobile, at first glance a set of ungainly shapes/sounds, but put together in such a graceful, carefully balanced manner that it all hangs together in equilibrium. Many of the actual sounds we hear are booming, deep guttural groans and roars that are in themselves far from beautiful, but the way they have been combined here into the delicate, fragile structures of the music is exceptional.
As well as the soft tones, the deep gurgles, the booming bass surges, there are percussive moments, the pads of either flute or tuba used as tiny tapping devices, while (I think) the tuba is also stuck at several points to add little moments of sharp clarity into the otherwise deep, murky sounds. These are used sparingly, as are Haywards sudden blasts of air every now and again, creating more acute counterpoint to the blurred, longer contributions. There are no wasted sounds here. The music is far from empty, there are no elongated silences, but it all sounds thoroughly considered, each part of the structure balancing out another, the mobile kept from tipping too far in one direction or another.
I’m not sure what else there is to say about this music. There are no electronics, no histrionics, but also no lack of invention. The music sounds thoroughly modern, and yet also explores the extended possibilities of a very traditional family of instruments. Nella Basilica was recorded by Simon Reynell all the way out in Italy in late 2009, in a basilica in Tuscany. The setting for the music seems to flow into the recording, the slow pace of life, the grand, stately, finely crafted (I am guessing) building, a sense of space. This is a magical recording to me, an absolute joy to sit quietly and involve yourself in, putting aside the stresses and pressures of the world outside. Just great music.”
Richard Pinnell, The Watchful Ear
“Robin Hayward plays microtonal tuba (which has a microtonal valve system) and, the apparently well-known Roberto Fabbriciani plays bass flutes - bass, contrabass and hyerbass - the latter being over twelve meters of tubing. As you can imagine with such instruments things go pretty low here. I wasn't looking at the CD player when playing this, but it seems, oddly enough more like one track than five separate ones. A work of immense deepness, with just a bare minimum of sound information and a maximum of empty space. That seems like easy going music, but it isn't. This is one for your absolute full attention, but then it will be to your full satisfaction. This is a great start of the series.” Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly
“It's to Arezzo in Tuscany that the owner of Another Timbre went to record a collaboration between Roberto Fabbriciani – a native of the town – and Robin Hayward, a Briton living in Berlin. The former is well-known within the world of contemporary classical music, a great flautist who has extended the possibilities of his instrument. He is attributed with the invention of the hyperbass flute, an instrument as unique as it is imposing with its 12 metres of tubing and its range that stretches 2 octaves below that of the contrabass flute. Hayward is a seasoned improviser who approaches the tuba with meticulous care, and who uses on this recording a fully microtonal version of the instrument that was recently developed. Whether working with a new version of his instrument (Hayward) or stepping for the first time into the world of improvisation (Fabbriciani), here both musicians leave behind their familiar habits and explore new territories. Indeed you can feel a certain tension from the first moments, a seriousness in the face of the unknown. The recording took place in the Basilica San Domenico, whose dimensions and reverberant acoustic doubtless reinforced the solemn character of the music. Almost anxiously, the huge sound machines produce timbres which slowly stretch out across the space and whose richness is nourished by the vibrations of metal and the reverberations given back off the stone walls. The sound textures and the structural fabric work well together, and you have to listen closely to catch the extremely low frequencies which are at the threshold of human hearing. The music is imbued with an almost intimidating sense of weightiness, as if coming from a gigantic being which you could never comprehend in its totality and from which emanates a sense of power in a latent state. It's a bit like finding yourself face to face with a beached whale which is still animated with small jerking movements and whose intentions are difficult to interpret. You are witnessing a long and agonising process whose occasional twitching movements are certainly petrifying, but whose final outcome is beyond doubt. Two of the tracks offer some respite from the general austerity: « Riflessione » and « Colori de Cimabue », a reference to the great Italian painter one of whose famous crucifixes hangs in the Basilica. Here the sound palette becomes wider, the sonorities more diverse, and you can almost discern a sketchy narrative or, at any rate, you can wallow irresistibly in a mass of sound adorned with fabulous reflections. The last piece returns again to the growling, groaning sounds of the beginning, a radical music that is more admirable than seductive, but is no less important for that, and may even be historic.”
Jean-Claude Gevrey, scala tympani
“The bass-, contrabass- and hyperbassflutes of Roberto Fabbriciani and the microtonal tuba of Robin Hayward are fine examples, offering a music that demands the closest attention: at once delicate, rough, rich in detail, and haunted by space. The notes are often played in extremis with flutter-tongues, key-clicks, non-European phrasing, and irregular glissandos. The power of the interpreters makes one feel the distance between sound and space, space being measured by the time between the events themselves, and the after-effects of the events and their resonance. This acoustic music, recorded without any effects other than those achieved through the bodies of the musicians and their great technical mastery of their instruments, is among the toughest and most demanding both to make and to listen to. Far from the well-beaten paths of most contemporary music, this is a work which should carry a warning sign for unsuspecting ears.” Boris Wlassoff, Revue et Corrigée
“Roberto Fabbriciani's playing on bass, contrabass and hyperbassflute is widely loved in new music circles, where he's long been known for his late Nono. Indeed, it was while performing Nono that he first met microtonal tubist Robin Hayward. This duo encounter – Fabbriciani's first improvised session – took place in the surprisingly dry acoustic of the Basilica di San Domenico in the Tuscan town Arezzo. With extensions and tubings galore, the two players play music that sounds like the building settling, which I somehow can't help hearing as an acoustic response to the creaking roof of Malfatti, Durrant and Lehn's dach. It's a superbly compelling recording, filled with manifold articulations of breath and metal, ranging from soft plinks, high vocalic cries, and beautiful rubbed bowl oscillations to long, unfurling flatulence, barely audible birdsong, and antic trilling that recalls New Winds. Fabbriciani sounds great, focused, restrained and consistently imaginative, not simply in terms of technique but in terms of giving the improvisations shape through a keypad click, a controlled overtone, or a sudden whorl of sound like Robert Dick or Matthias Ziegler. Things groan and coalesce intensely on "riflessione," which sounds like spirits awakening in the space, and drift like foghorns and soft lolling waves on "colori di cimabue." A lovely disc, the kind of thing you really wish you could have heard in person.” Jason Bivins, Paris Transatlantic
The following long review was by Jesse Goin from his excellent blog Crow with no Mouth:
“Tubist Robin Hayward studied Nono's late works in Avignon 20 years ago, focusing on Nono's work for solo tuba, Post-Praeludium per Donau. This was when he first became aware of flautist Roberto Fabbriciani, who collaborated closely with the composer in the last years of Nono's life.
In the ensuing years, Hayward noted Fabbriciani's name on the Nono recordings he was checking out. These are the tendrils that eventually entwine; in this instance, the two musicians first played together in 2008, in Freiburg. The piece that combined their sounds was Nono's Risonanze Erannti. At that meeting they were, of course, responding to the composer's notations. A year later [September 28, 2009, nearly a year ago to this writing], they would meet again, responding to each other in an extraordinary setting, the Basilica di San Domenico of Fabbriciani's birth-place, Arezzo, Tuscany.
Another Timbre head Simon Reynell proposed to Fabbriciani that he record a duo with Hayward, the flute maestro's first recording of improvised music. Fabbriciani told me, in an email exchange- In reality, improvisation has always been part of my cultural and professional baggage, as I am an experimenter; therefore, the recording with Hayward was a natural choice. His esteem for Hayward, he told me, assured his saying yes to the project.
Hayward reciprocated the admiration for his playing partner- There is a sound-aesthetic of risk and imperfection in Nono's late works which Roberto had talked about when we'd met while playing Risonanze- they shouldn't be played too cleanly. This is something I can easily relate to, as it's also an aim I sometimes set myself when improvising, the reason I try to leave space for the instrument to come up with things I wouldn't have thought of.
This last quality, the provision of space for their dialogue to include the unscripted and natural sounds every dialogue includes- the plosives, rasps, tongue-clicks, whispers and throat-clearing- contribute to Hayward and Fabbriciani's encounter being much more than one of dual virtuosity and the mere exploitation of their respective modified instruments' potential for exotica.
Their twined sounds are, for the duration of Nella Basilica's 45 minutes, almost entirely subaqueous, seeming to rise from silent depths, in liquid forms and shapes. Fabbriciani told me he conceived of the sounds before he had the hyperbass flute in hand; the instrument, when completed by the commissioned craftsman, enabled Fabbriciani to realize what he could already hear-I have been able to realize absolutely the unknown sounds that have stimulated my fantasy, he wrote me.
Independently of their 2009 encounter, Hayward was developing a microtonal valve system for his tuba. While Hayward had begun exploring the microtonal sound worlds possible with the conventional six-valve F tuba in 2003, his modified system was fitted just two months prior to recording with Fabbriciani. The newness meant Hayward discovered some of its sounds as he improvised the Nella Basilica session. This was consistent with Fabbriciani's observation that one shouldn't approach Nono's works too cleanly, maintaining the sound of surprise.
Nella Basilica is structured as five tracks, 5-15 minutes in length. In fact, the duo's sound is of a piece, flowing effortlessly from pool to pool, gathering a head in moments of eddied, inspired, insistent dialogue [the final eight minutes of Riflessione are a bracingly glottal, spitty confrontation, in sharp contrast to the duo's overall pooled waters]. As I said, their combined voices are subaqueous, improbably so, given the extended tonal range of their modified instruments. The low frequencies that flutter and fall out of our hearing range remind me of similar sonics produced by electronic artists. Perhaps the best word picture of what a hyperbass flute sounds like is conveyed by the title of Fabbriciani's 2007 release for hyperbass flute and tape, Glaciers In Extinction. Much of Nella Basilica might be characterized as glacial- but also murmuring at depth, soughing as heard deep within a dream-state, wind rustles and whispers at 20,000 leagues. Hayward and Fabbriciani are so musical at these unprecedented depths, you are preoccupied with neither the innovation of their instruments nor their technique. This is, for me, high praise for a meeting that on paper looks fraught with the risks attending novel instrumentation and material [anyone remember Braxton essaying bop standards on the contrabass sax?].
I won't pretend to understand Reynell's artistry in microphone placement; suffice it to say, you hear Hayward and Fabbriciani's sound in the most visceral, even corporeal manner imaginable. Throat, tongue and lips should be listed with the flutes and tuba employed as instrumentation. Reynell placed room mics in a fashion that occasionally pulls in sounds from without the basilica, which frame the musicians perfectly.
When I was first considering writing about Nella Basilica, informed that it is the inaugural recording of Fabbriciani-the-improviser, I figured that aspect of the release would be foreground. I am happy to report otherwise. There is no sense of the hybrid or of two disparate worlds meeting here- Hayward and Fabbriciani engage, as heard in the best of improvised encounters, in the moment, each sound placed with acute care and the utmost regard for the unspooling, low-end waters these fantastic musicians are trawling. Reynell deserves considerable praise for drawing maestro Fabbriciani from the festivals and concert halls of the classical realm into this intimate encounter with Hayward. While the seeds of their collaboration can be seen retrospectively in their shared regard for Nono, someone has to have the imagination and do the work to bring such a fruitful pairing about. Reynell, who continues to stake Another Timbre to such risks and adventures, has produced a beautiful document in Nella Basilica. Deep calls to deep, and we are privileged to hear the conversation.” Jesse Goin, Crow with No Mouth
Another fine and detailed review is by David Grundy, and will be published in Eartrip magazine in 2011:
“The second track on ‘Nella Basilica’ is called ‘Adagio’, but ‘adagio’ is a term which might as well apply to the entire disc. This is a near sub-sonic world, made up of sounds which Fabbriciani and Hayward heard in their dreams, in their imaginations, and had to invent instruments (the hyperbass flute and the microtonal tuba) to realize in actuality. As a result, it has a kind of sleep-walkers’ surrealism about it – not a bright and glaring world of fantasy and transgression, but something more lugubrious, ungainly, even. There are no streams of notes or rapid-fingered virtuoso passages here; indeed, a couple of other reviews compare the timbres and textures not only to whales (who by now are accepted as making lovely, if alien music) but to ‘hippos making love’. I might add the mechanical rumbles which fill the edges of our twenty-first century hearing, to which we have become acclimatised and which we barely notice: helicopters and aircraft droning overhead, engines at the very first moment they begin to splutter into life, the cavernous breathing of vast industrial processes. In fact, though, the overall effect is far from ungainly: what results from the combinations of sounds is a delicate, even fragile weave in which breaths and the click of fingers on keys signal the human element behind the manipulation of these great behemoths of brass and wind. It might be helpful to think of the instruments, the flutes in particular, as acoustically-amplified breath chambers – in that sense, these players, both operating at the ‘vanguard’ of New Music, are in fact getting back to those pre-historic moments when man first blew into a resonant object to simulate, echo, have dialogue with the natural sounds of whistling, howling and whispering wind and water.
This is, to some degree, a recording of paradoxes. It’s at once ‘big’ – the basilica acts as a giant, resonant cavern – and ‘small’, silences pinging out from in between rolls of low sound, barely-audible drips and gurgles on ‘Colori di Cimabue’ functioning like the most minute of paint flecks on a canvas. Hayward and Fabbriciani had discussed the “aesthetics of risks and imperfection” in Nono’s late works beforehand, and one might also make a connection here to the role of ‘accidental’, ‘chance’ sounds in the works of, say, Radu Malfatti – sounds which are just as much a part of the whole musical texture as are the actual notes that he plays. There is, however, a difference between the stomach gurgles and spittle-clearing on ‘Imaoto’, Malfatti’s recent duo with Klaus Filip (recorded with such closeness that Massimo Ricci calls it “sonic voyeurism”), the by-now familiar sounds of rumbling Tokyo traffic on onkyo recordings, and what goes on in ‘Nella Basilica’, where things are more controlled. Clicks, throat-clearing, inhalation and exhalation of breath are not part of the texture as a kind of side-effect – leave a gap and see what fills it – but are adopted to go alongside the ‘purer’ tones by means of contrast and emphasis. Or, at least, what might at first have been accidental, or incidental, soon becomes a consciously-deployed tactic. For this is a collaboration in which both musicians pay great attention to detail; the concentration on nearly sub-bass frequencies might seem like a limitation, which of course it is, but in other ways it serves to free up a different kind of thinking, a microscopic focus on the smallest intricacies of a particular range of sounds, a determination to get in and really explore the fine details of what might on cursory listen seem like a constricted area of dull drones, groans and rumbles. Just as high-speed improvisation works from the ground up, tossing off flurries of ideas, second-by-second, to create a ‘bigger picture’ made up of myriad fragments, so this kind of slow crawl starts off at the wider level and moves in, picking up on nuances and resonances to particular sounds that can only be accessed after minutes of carefully teaching oneself to listen in a particular way. This is only possible because of how closely attuned the two musicians are to each other (even though this was their first improvisation together); they both have a similar approach to space, an understanding of particular modes of overlap, and a tendency to start, stop, pause and re-start in a near-unison which sounds almost through-composed.
As we hear from the first notes of this album, this collaboration is about exchange: Hayward’s self-designed microtonal tuba occupies the higher range that would normally be occupied by a flute (with the sense of yawning, yearning, yelping strain that taking an instrument out of its normal range yields), while Fabbriciani, using the rumbling lower register of the massive hyper-bass flute, concentrates on pinging, bouncing tones that have something of an underwater quality to them. You can really hear them playing off the space, Hayward’s droning, shofar-like tones spreading out, swelling and contracting, sympathetically merging with Fabbriciani’s breathy trills and offset by the latter’s sharp, plosive attack. Often we talk about space as something we value in music, whether we mean Miles Davis’ careful placement of notes or the silences that have come to predominate in recent ‘lowercase’ improv. But here there’s a real sense of that space as a physical thing – for which we surely owe a debt to Reynell’s microphone placement, ensuring that the echoes of the church space translate into something that sounds just as full as presence and depth on a pair of headphones. As a fine example, listen to the eerie moment, towards the end of the first track, where Hayward holds some low rumbles that vibrate at the edges like the drone of helicopter blades, while Fabbriciani whistles into the resonating church. It’s that vibrating quality that gives this disc its power, that almost subliminal territory where sound becomes a supremely physical entity, existing on the edge of perception (the liner notes tell us that the hyperbass flute “can produce sounds at the lowest limits of human hearing”) – those limit states, those realms, that aesthetic of risks and imperfection. I suppose the danger here is that things become too sluggish, too monolithic, too growlingly austere for a ‘beautiful’ experience; but beauty lies in more than just the twinkling and pretty sounds with which it can too easily be confused – it’s equally, if not more so, about dedication, construction, placement, focus; about working within, and testing, the limits. And, judged on those counts, ‘Nella Basilica’ really is a beautiful recording.” David Grundy, Eartrip magazine
“Roberto Fabbriciani/Robin Hayward: Nella Basilica Another Timbre at30
Robin Hayward: States of Rushing Choose Records 2009
Carl Ludwig Hübsch: Die Sach an Sich Free Elephant FA 011
Carl Ludwig Hübsch/Christoph Schiller: Giles U. Another Timbre at32
Twisting, broadening and stretching the capacities of the orchestral tuba are methods aptly demonstrated on this quartet of CDs, two solo and two duos. Although each is uniformly impressive, what is also notable is that the extended and microtonal strategies used by both German-based low-brass men were separately serendipitously developed.
Contemporary notated music ensembles are where Brighton, England-born Robin Hayward is usually employed, playing his own compositions and pieces composed for him by the likes of Alvin Lucier and Christian Wolff. Now Berlin-based and involved with ensembles such as the Splitter Orchestra and Phosphor, Hayward helped develop a microtonal tuba which uses an exchangeable vale system to extend the instrument’s range to play pitches without lip-bending. Divergently, Freiburg-born Carl Ludwig Hübsch’s background was initially in punk and brass bands. Now Köln-based however, his more recent improv credentials extend to groups featuring fellow sound explorers such as saxophonist Frank Gratkowski and trombonist Wolter Wierbos. Surprisingly or not, the restrained and somewhat other-worldly textures Hübsch creates solo on Die Sach an Sich and in his duo with Christoph Schiller, aren’t that dissimilar from those propelled by Hayward on States of Rushing and his duo with Roberto Fabbriciani
Solo, Hayward combines barely there puffs, concentrated blowing, pressurized pops and watery intonation to knit a unique, undulating soundworld. Often chromatic, at points his expression encompasses circular breaths, canine-like yelps and jackboot-like thumps, with his output pitch-sliding from nearly identical breaths to strained, squeaky microtones.
You get the clearest idea of his style on “Treader”. Here palindrome-like mouth smacks expand with staccato percussiveness to such an extent that the brass rumbles start to resemble conga drum whacks. Following a section where the bellowing echo back onto itself, with broken-octave patterns, tongue twists are replaced by forced breaths – and what could be light footfalls – as the slower pulse melds with brassy growls and ends with staccatissimo crunches. The subsequent “Redial” adds to this sonic picture with timbres so taut and microtonal that the effect suggested is that of plastic being flanged and physically pulled. Nevertheless the blurry oscillations include vocal inflections, so that the humanness of the performance – and performer – is never in doubt. As the exchangeable valve system makes it possible to alternate between standard and micro-tonal pulsing two separate lines are audible until a finale which collapses both into a heavily breathed timbre.
If Hayward’s solos reflect piping advances, then Hübsch’s cram an expansive collection of tones into their conception. More highly rhythmic and multiphonic than Hayward’s work, the German layers contrapuntal friction into many of his lines. For every time he allows pure air to echo through his instrument uninterrupted, there are interludes of strident tongue and lip motions that could be air leaking gradually from a balloon; rhythmic slaps and rubs on the metal surface; mouthpiece suction and aviary squeals; plus whistling semi tones and watery pumps.
On “Teil 4” he pumps out a swinging ostinato like a one-man New Orleans brass band, then turns out short chromatic melody inserts that contrast with rapid crackles and tongue vibrations. Like Hayward, he outputs pounding drags and rebounds, suggesting the sounds of a drum and cymbal. Unlike the Briton however, another intonation strategy appears to result from blowing through an aluminum pie plate balanced on his instrument’s upturned bell. Hübsch also alternates watery tremolo lines and plunger extensions. Meanwhile “Teil 2” varies continuous narrowly spaced tongue puffs, capillary brays and even drum stick-like slaps on the metal. His low-pitched snarls and gurgles also resonate back into the tuba bell. Soon the instrument’s elephantine bellow is spiced with tongue slurs and pops, as distant higher pitched tones are added to the constant drone.
More similarities between tubaists exist when another partner is added to the mix. That’s because both duos deepen the search for timbres far beyond the expected. Hayward’s associate Fabbriciani, who pushes the limits of his flute tones in a similar fashion to the tuba, spends most of the disc playing his self-designed, hyperbass flute with its more than 12 meters of tubing. Although this is the duo’s first improvised session, Hayward and Fabbriciani have together performed late works by Luigi Nono. Sharing similar interests in electronics and notated music, Hübsch and Stuttgart-born, Basel-based Christoph Schiller, master of the prepared and altered spinet, have improvised together since 2008. Although mostly involved with the improvising vocal ensemble Millefleurs, Schiller has also worked with players such as violinist Harald Kimmig and Peter Baumgartner on powerbook. His self-designed attachments convert the 16th Century keyboard into a string-percussion instrument.
This flexibility is quite obvious on Giles U, when his rasping take on tension-laden extensions push the strings firmly into bottleneck-guitar territory. Besides additional harsh twangs, Schiller also exposes keyboard plinks plus sawing tones resonating off tightly wound strings. At the same time, these timbres are frequently answered by, or contrast with, reflux cries, duck-like quacks and flutters, plus rough throat-clearing honks from Hübsch.
These knife-edge echoes are most in evidence on track 5, where the scrapped and stopped strings are pushed to such flanging that the result resembles hurdy-gurdy-like splintered tones. The tubaist’s contribution is in the form of rubato burbles, pedal-point slurs and corkscrew plunger work. Here and elsewhere lines evolve in double counterpoint, only occasionally intersecting.
It’s the same on track 2, although the tuba player’s interface is more concerned with distanced whistling, tongue slaps and alp-horn-like echoes. As Hübsch continuously growls in strained tones, Schiller’s responses take the form of cymbal-like key clatters, plus rolls, pops and strokes on the internal strings. The broken-octave playing is also more involved with color and shading then connection. However by the end the keyboardist’s exposure of string sounds quivering with partials and extensions, plus the tubaist’s solid yet guttural snorts, reach a common goal.
So do the metal-infused polytones Fabbriciani and Hayward both exhibit on Nella Basilica’s five Tuscany-recorded selections. However with both playing horns, the linkage of most tones to an individual instrument is more difficult than divining a spinet’s texture from a tuba’s. “Adagio” for instance, alternates lowering damp plops, contrapuntal quivering drones, tongue stops and portamento scrapes. By the end however identifiable tuba warbles are heard alongside melismatic counter tones from the flute. In a similar fashion, “Colori di Cimabue” consists of back-and-forth, expansive horn lines. Soon, cavernous tuba rumbles and bubbling meet microtonal key percussion plus discontinuous pumps and squeals. As chirping tones are matched with subterranean lowing, the revealed tones affiliate with human-sounding vocalizing through the different metals. True differentiation only occurs on pieces like the title track with the slightly higher pitched flute lines sounding airy and chromatic as the tuba tones corkscrew into pedal-point growls that never venture higher than mid-range. By the finale of this intermezzo, the flute whistles splutter in the background as bent-note tuba pedal point occupies the foreground.
Making the case for adventurous sound construction as well as the versatility of the hitherto lumbering tuba tones, Hübsch and Hayward showcase advances in their chosen instrument’s range and texture; plus confirming its role as a duo partner.”
Ken Waxman , Jazzword
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