JACK Quartet, string quartet
Six Tones, dàn tranh, dàn bau, guitars
Richard Karpen: Aperture II // Elliptic
|Richard Karpen||Aperture II (for amplified string quartet and live electronic, 2012) 39:14|
|Elliptic (Strandlines II) (for amplified string quartet,dàn tranh, dàn bau, guitars [6-string classical and Vietnamese electric], 2014) 27:00|
Aperture II//Elliptic features breathtaking live performances by the JACK Quartet and the Six Tones. Here the artists realize Richard Karpen’s music for live electronics and string quartet, đàn tranh, đàn bầu, and 6-string and Vietnamese electric guitars. In the album’s liner notes, renowned scholar James Pritchett eloquently explains how it is less about the music Karpen himself makes and more about the music that results from the collaboration between himself and the performers. Karpen assumes the self-proclaimed role of the “director” of musical events specially made for these ensembles. Aperture II/Elliptic captures something rare – a sonic activation that allows the individual personalities, musical and collaborative interests of members of the JACK Quartet and the Six Tones as it maintains the interaction of the artists as a collective. Perhaps what is most impressive about this recording is that Karpen creates an unimaginable sound world while giving the performers room to contribute; and yet, the result is the creation of expansive works that have impressively singular monolithic trajectories. It can be likened to a raising of a manmade monolith; as it is hoisted to the skies, the process of being lifted changes nothing, yet it is a totally different thing when it’s done.
Aperture II offers extraordinarily beautiful stretches of complex harmonic depth linking unexpected outbursts of texture that are surprisingly unified with the whole. The quartet’s masterful transitions between contrasting material feel so natural, adding to the wonder this music inspires. The discipline and technical skill of the JACK Quartet are undeniable as the amplified sound makes every subtlety an important component of the work.
Elliptic (Strandlines II) is a remarkable display of timbre as seen through an experimental and multicultural lens. Yet, while using conventional and extended techniques to play traditional instruments, Karpen utilizes the instruments in such a unique way that there is never a feeling that this is a multicultural exercise. The traditional Vietnamese instruments combined with amplified guitar, electric guitar, and string quartet create a surprisingly compatible source of textures.
For Karpen, sounds are the most important part of the work; and they are indeed rich and inspired in these one-of-a-kind live performances, which, thanks to this recording, can be re-lived time and again.