TEMPO The Quarterly Review of New Music Vol. 75 No.297 Review by Roger Heaton
This issue of TEMPO, July 2021, spends a -good- two pages on our Red Desert album, who we are, and what this music might be about. I’m so pleased. Thank you Roger Heaton and Heather Roche.#andrecormier @thedevinmaxwell @lucie__vitkova @mpisaroliu #reddesertensemble @infrequent_seams
“One begins to see that the Wandelweiser aesthetic (wide-ranging as it is), with it’s Cagean/Wolffian roots, the importance of silence, space and sounds in space, seems, on the evidence of this disc and the pair’s extraordinarily devoted work in the performance and promotion of experimental music, to be particularly important to Red Desert, not least in the way they have presented new work in small-scale, informal and unusual spaces.”
“It is a striking and dramatic piece [Andre Cormier], played with great control and intensity by both players, which would benefit greatly from the drama of live performance.”
This is not superficial ambient music: [Lucie Vitkova] these are carefully heard sounds that are really well controlled, particularly in the clarinet playing.”
So happy to hear the results of this collaboration with composer Teodora Stepančić. We worked remotely while I was in Utah, and Teodora in NYC, late summer nights recording multiphonics and long, long ostinatos. It’s a beautiful THIRTY TWO minute piece with shapes and colors that I just love. For me! All of the pieces are so beautiful. Please consider listening.
four duets for & with friends: Lucie, Erin, Katie, Rachel pieces about sharing, learning & being together dedicated to Anji, my sister composed in 2018 & 2020
released April 25, 2021
Composed by Teodora Stepančić
Performed by Katie Porter, Erin Rogers, Rachel Mangold, Lucie Vítková, Teodora
Recorded by Assaf Gidron at St.Paul’s Episcopal church, Brooklyn
Produced by Douglas Farrand & Teodora
Edited, mixed, mastered by Assaf Gidron & Teodora at Big Family Audio Co.
Photo by Gordana Reljin Stepančić
Supported by NYC Women’s Fund for Media, Music and Theatre by the City of New York Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment in association with NYFA
Malosma is a 35-minute-long work for bass flute, bass clarinet and video co-created by Katie Porter & Christine Tavolacci. Malosma uses both structured divinatory practices and improvisation to facilitate a meditation on the natural closing and creation of chapters, time and place. We want to share this work with all of you on the occasion of our birthdays (April 12 & 14), in celebration of life and the new growth that this season brings.
Over the last 6 months, Christine and I have been meeting over zoom and creating a duo. It grew to include very slow moving video footage from Christine’s time hiking in the Los Angeles forest, and slow moving notes. We share a birthday week and want to share this work with you! We’ll be playing live with the video for about a half hour, then feel free to celebrate/chat with us over on zoom. XO!
CHOROCHRONOS lives in the crevices in between sounds; in the space between an incidental grumble and an actualized statement. But rather than drift toward ambience or sonic wallpaper, the duo of Katie Porter (clarinet and bass clarinet) and Devin Maxwell (percussion and electronics) favor a balanced determinism and provide each sound here with the force of intention—even if such a sound barely rises into audibility. Whether through auditory illusions such as pitch and timbre matching or an expert approach to contrast, Porter and Maxwell take the admittedly strange instrumentation of their duo and the even more obviously strange content of these four compositions and approach a unity full of naturalism and stoicism.
The apex of this synchronicity arrives through Maxwell’s own “Bonneville Park 3,” a piece for clarinet and electronics. A majority of the piece’s 11-minute runtime finds Porter’s clarinet tones in harmony with the sparkling electronics of Maxwell’s synths. Its most stunning moments blend the competing sounds into a vibrant mass, forming a choir of coalescing tones without obvious source or reference point. As the piece drives toward its final minutes, though, Porter’s long tones morph into a cyclical melodic pattern while Maxwell’s swirl of synthesizers grows in intensity. The entrance of a thunderous bass tone grounds the previously airy piece, and “Bonneville Park 3” reaches a moment of climactic reward unlike any other on the album.
The unexpected fervor found in the conclusion of “Bonneville Park 3” points toward Red Desert’s underlying mischievousness—a willingness to subvert expectations. André Cormier’s “Sommeil” begins with a stumbling barrage of percussion sounds and a jester-like clarinet melody, a passage of thuds and flits that stands apart from the whispered nature of the rest of the record. This bombast almost immediately dissolves into steady timpani rolls and low-volume clarinet moans for most of the piece’s runtime, only for the duo to hard cut the drones off with what sounds like an elevator-door chime and close out with an unexpected return to the sonic carnival of its opening.
If these two opening pieces provide a wealth of structural experimentation, their counterparts on CHOROCHRONOS’ second side embrace repetition and austerity. Both Lucie Vitková’s “Choral No. 13” and Michael Pisaro’s “Turning” follow a similar structure: single bursts of sound interspersed between bouts of silence. “Choral No. 13” works with more overt variety, differentiating each sonic stopgap with a grab-bag of warbling percussion sounds and some delightfully eyebrow-raising harmonies. “Turning” burrows further toward an idiosyncratic limit point, stretching out the silent interludes while each instance of feather-light clarinet notes and percussion rustlings speak only through whispered rasps. Without the structural surprises of the preceding tracks, “Choral No. 13” and, especially, “Turning” lay bare the beauty of sound for the sake of the beauty of sound.
If the surface of CHOROCHRONOS presents a record full of placid sounds and an almost self-flagellating embrace of repetition and near-silence, the deeper layers reveal a novel approach to subtlety and musical care that makes minute changes in decibel or pitch feel like exercises in long-distance running. In their performance of these four works, Porter and Maxwell showcase an empathetic approach to the art of the avant-garde duo—never does either musician envelop the other, and never does anyone attempt to wrangle these beguiling, glass-fragile compositions out of their always-disappearing outlines. –Audrey Lockie
Red Desert Ensemble, Chorochronos, Infrequent Seams, CD/DL/LP
Splitting their time between New York Brooklyn and a mountain cabin in Utah, percussionist Devin Maxwell and clarinettist Katie Porter have been honing their finely poised musical partnership for the best part of two decades. They came together as a duo when Michael Pisaro wrote Turning for them in 2002. It is revived here, sparse and tense, a prolonged, palpably gradual and finely balanced rotation around the threshold of audibility. Three other pieces fill out the picture. In Andre Cormier’s Sommeil, trills and chimes are interspersed with muted tones and rumblings. Lucie Vitkova’s Choral No. 13 is luminous and graceful. Maxwell’s own Bonneville Park 3 is a spectral tour de force pitching acoustic instruments against textured electronics. Performances that testify to the deep affinity and meshed horizons that unite and energise Red Desert Ensemble.
CHOROCHRONOS is a collection of four gorgeous experimental works for clarinet, percussion and electronics. Red Desert Ensemble (Katie Porter and Devin Maxwell) lovingly recorded duos they’ve performed for almost two decades in small spaces, for even smaller audiences all over the US (and Canada) by composers André Cormier, Lucie Vítková and Michael Pisaro alongside a huge new spectral work for clarinet and electronics by Maxwell. The result is exceptional, a document of music trapped in ether or volcanic rock, both unearthed stillness and totally jarring, a perfect music-as-art for our time. With cover artwork by Christine Heindl, liner notes by Adam Tinkle, design by Phillip Niemeyer and video art by Svavar Jónatansson and Dev Harlan, the album is released on vinyl, CD and digital download by the label Infrequent Seams. CHOROCHRONOS follows Red Desert Ensemble’s tradition of inviting audiences into the sound world of avant-garde music with practiced interpretations, attentive curation, and insightful performances.
Yesterday we performed Teodora’s duet for clarinet and casios. I was livestreamed in to Mise-En_Place in Brooklyn, my sounds broadcast over the speakers inside the space, along with other clarinet recordings, some from my speakers too, and Teodora performed her part in the space. It took several rehearsals for Teodora and I to coordinate how to work over zoom at the same time as performing with a delayed livestream. But we did it. A cacophony of clarinets and casios, but the actual sound was just a gorgeous bathtub of us. Also I get to sing and play. I love that. All three works on the concert were so beautiful, a duo with Erin Rogers on sax and Rachel Mangold on bass. So happy to be a part of this project, the recording comes out on Love Records in the spring and it’s all supported by a NYFA grant for women. HERE IS THE SHOW- It starts at about 15 minutes in, my piece is first. xo
Acoustic+ | Teodora Stepančić | mise-en place
Date: October 29, 2020Time: 2:30 pm
Duets with Erin Rogers, Rachel Mangold and Katie Porter.