Avaeken by Stephen O’Malley, performed by Zwerm Quartet
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On the island of Fårö, northeast of Gotland, there is an oak tree with more growth rings than any other of its species. Over a millennium old, the tree inspired composer Stephen O’Malley (during a comparatively short stay there) to write a (relative to the tree’s age, rather brief) piece named after it. The Sunn-O))) member wrote the piece Avaeken, dedicated to organist Kali Malone and composer Alvin Lucier, who is represented with four works at The Sound of Distance, for the electric guitar quartet Zwerm, which evinces unusual sounds from regular instruments during the nearly 20-minute composition.
Following the principle of so-called pure tuning or microtonal music, O’Malley and Zwerm use e-bows and slide tools to create long-lasting tones that must be hit as precisely as possible and not be contaminated by any incidental noise on the fretboard or amplifiers. The goal of this instrumental precision is to produce rhythmic figures from the harmonic interplay that capture the entire space and the bodies within it. And in the process, of course, to throw time a tad out of joint.