John King & String Noise: Centripetal Light (Gold Bolus, 2022)

August 23, 2022 at 7:44 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

John King & String Noise: Centripetal Light

String Noise is an entirely appropriate project name, not because the musicians (violinists Conrad Harris and Pauline Kim Harris) are attempting to make harsh noise, but because their compositions, which explore different techniques based on chance as well as determinate forms, embrace dissonance and clashing dynamics. “Centripetal Light” features arrangements of three simultaneously played pitches, often arriving at glorious, hair-raising clashes. The somewhat more Kronos-like “Triple Threat” is more of a structured improvisation, culminating in busier sections where the violins seem to be chasing each other around the room. “Klepsydra I” organizes rhythms, durations, dynamics, and timbres by chance, and it ends up being the quietest, least intrusive piece of the four, yet it’s still too eerie to slip away into the background, unnoticed. “Triple Helix” is an electronically treated piece containing chance-determined electronic alterations of the composed acoustic sections. This, of course, helps the music move in different sonic dimensions, adding more of a digital crush and 3D spatialization, sometimes adding barbed distortion or making the sounds closer to a didgeridoo. It lasts for 20 minutes and doesn’t particularly have a clear beginning or end, just sort of fizzling out as if it’s about to segue to another section, so it feels a bit more like a generative experiment than a performance, but it’s essentially both, and it might be String Noise at their most adventurous.

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