Pre-order of Cold Stability. You get 1 track now (streaming via the free Bandcamp app and also available as a high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more), plus the complete album the moment it’s released.
Percussionist Christopher Whyte releases Cold Stability, a collection of works for different percussion instruments that explores paths to quietude through sound. Featuring works by Toshio Hosokawa, Sarah Hennies, Lou Harrison, and Whyte himself, the album travels through a variety of timbres, most of which inhabit a space which subverts the expectation for a bombastic percussion recording.
From the undulating marimba rolls in Toshio Hosokawa’s Reminiscence, to the psycho-acoustic exploration of Sarah Hennies’ Psalm 1, to Whyte’s own polyrhythmic/polytextural centerpiece, and finally to Lou Harrison’s gamelan- inspired, just intonation work Solo to Anthony Cirone, Whyte examines textures that ask the listener to slow our minds and focus on component materials of sound. Whyte’s album lives within what some might consider a West Coast new music milieu — one in which the elements of timbre, tuning, and sonic phenomena are brought to the fore for contemplation.
Toshio Hosokawa is perhaps the most influential Japanese composer of his generation, merging both canonical and contemporary influences he obtained in his time studying in Germany with those from his native country, including concepts drawn from Zen Buddhism. His Reminiscence for solo marimba revels in that instrument’s rich low register, rolling mysterious harmonies and mining them for their unique colors and character profile. Hosokawa alternates between sinewy arpeggiated phrases and taut accented chords, providing relief for the ear to contemplate the pitch material against a momentary “canvas” of silence.
A significant strain in Sarah Hennies’ work is her acute attention to the unique acoustic properties of instruments. Psalm 1 is part of a series of works for vibraphone that zoom in on this overtone rich instrument, using repetition to reveal hidden phenomena inside its timbre. Partially inspired by Alvin Lucier’s scientific approach to sound, Hennies establishes musical parameters that illuminate acoustic realities. In Psalm 1 we hear a series of intervals, each with its own sonic profile, conjuring auditory illusions that can produce sounds that go beyond what is literally being played.
Whyte’s title piece A Cold Stability draws inspiration from wine making, dividing the piece into four sections that correspond to the different stages of the process. First we hear the ripe grapes just before harvest, expressed here in percolating, polyrhythmic textures on skinned drums. Next we hear the mechanical precision of sorting machines, captured by virtuosic, modular passagework on mallet keyboard instruments such as glockenspiel, vibraphone, and steel drum. Whyte evokes the patient period when the wine settles and evolves in wood barrels with swells on woodblocks in a duet with cyclical figures on marimba. Finally, we hear the luminosity of the bottling process in shimmering bowed wine glasses and bottles. Within these sections, Whyte finds contrasting expressive areas in pace, tempo, and material, mimicking the organic nature of the wine making process, an ever evolving transformation of source material into an irreversible modification of itself.
Lou Harrison’s Solo to Anthony Cirone is scored for tuned pipes, tempered in just intonation. Like his West Coast contemporaries, Harrison was fascinated with tuning systems that established a direct connection with the overtone series. This meditative piece is comprised of a series of ritualistic phrases outlining a pentatonic scale. The resonance of the tuned pipes reveal a panoramic pitch halo that veritably glows and pulsates through the speakers. It is a fitting close, a final prayer of sorts, to a recording that has so effectively drawn the listener’s ears into a wide range of sonic paths towards stillness and contemplation.
– Dan Lippel
releases November 10, 2023
All tracks engineered by Branic Howard
Editing for Reminiscence, Psalm 1, & Solo to Anthony Cirone by Branic Howard
Editing for A Cold Stability by Christopher Whyte
Mixed & Mastered by Branic Howard at Open Field Recording, Portland, Oregon
Reminiscence, Psalm 1, & Solo to Anthony Cirone recorded at Bauman Auditorium at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon, October 2021
A Cold Stability was recorded at Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg, Oregon, December 2021
New Focus Recordings is an artist led collective label featuring releases in contemporary music of many stripes, as well as
new approaches to older repertoire. The label was founded by guitarist Daniel Lippel (who is the current director), composer engineer Ryan Streber, and composer Peter Gilbert in 2003-4, and features releases from many of new music's most active performers and composers....more