Friday, March 4, 2011

sublime frequencies

I am happy to return to the music of occasional collaborators Samuel Rodgers and Stephen Cornford, as the well they draw from for their 2010 release Zinc (extracts) is far from dry.

In what was my first spontaneously written review for crow, a short consideration of the duo's release on Another Timbre, tuned moment, weighting, I made reference to the process of their work for piano and piano feedback being akin to the duo of the underrated pianist Gabriel Paiuk and Jason Kahn [on the beautiful Cut Records release, Breathings], as well as to the Marcus Schmickler/John Tilbury piano alterations heard on Variety. There is also, on a grander scale, Cor Fuhler's role as sonic saboteur [again, to the long-suffering Tilbury] on the jaw-dropping MIMEO release, The Hands of Caravaggio. All of these pairings involve a pianist sounding keyboard and innerklavier resonances, filtered through transforming electronics.

Cage famously said ideas are one thing and what happens is another. The process, as sculptor Stephen Cornford sets Zinc into motion, is to jolt his piano works with the aperiodic, aleatory and unstable influences of Rodgers's electronic tweaking. The result is far from chaotic or merely of interest for its concept. The piano on Zinc, approached by two musicians with acute ears and empathic hands, billows, rattles and breathes; this is tactile, sensuous music.

If you view photos of Cornford's constructions for piano, turntables and guitars, it is clear sound sculpture can refer to more than a precious placeholder to describe fuzzy, inchoate music. Cornford's kinetic creations whirl, vibrate and move in space, sending waves and plies of timbre and overtones into the air [there are samples aplenty on Cornford's site]. On Zinc, the duo adhere to a more restricted palette, largely extracting and mining the rattle and thrum from the grand piano, with a steady dose of sustain. The first word I jotted down following a few listens to Zinc was sustain. Cornford and Rodgers make music with a feeling of vitality and sustain- it is music that rises and spirals upward, even when sounding, as happens on the second track, the bent blues note.

I will mention in closing that Zinc (extracts) is music culled from the same sessions that yielded tuned moment, weighting. The music here is in no wise leftovers or afterthoughts. I have spent time with both, and Zinc owns a qualitatively different feel, a concision and concentration of elements that merit a separate release. The sustain of the piano's sublime frequencies and feedback gather in the air, something like the idea of massed cicadas, or an electric storm brewing.
Cornford and Rodgers are sculptors, lend an ear.

Zinc (extracts)


Cornelis said...

Hi Jesse!

I object to the word saboteur
We just where both playing the piano, from different angels, that's all

John Saboteured me as much as I did him, if any at all...., as you would when you just play together

enjoying your blog!

jesse said...

Of course that was a playful reference to the interface between yourself and Tilbury, Cor.
I may not have articulated it as well as I could have-I was saying the role you played in introducing an indeterminate outcome [altering the piano notes played]to Tilbury's input [the piano notes played]is an antecedent to Rodgers altering Cornford's output.
Cheered you are reading and commenting!

Unknown said...

hi there!

I am writing from Athens Greece and I would like to ask your permission to republish some of your work in a Greek art magazine translated in Greek. If you are interested could we talk in a private space?
my email is
In any case thank you for your texts. They are just brilliant.
All the best from Greece

jesse said...

Thanks for reading, and the praise, Dimitris-I sent you an email.