Tony Conrad / C. Spencer Yeh / Michael F. Duch: Musculus Trapezius
Pica013. CD. Released January 2010. Audio sample.
From the abstract of the article "EMG Trapezius Muscle Activity Pattern in String Players:: Part I—Is There Variability in the Playing Technique?" authored by Anncristine Fjellman-Wiklund, Helena Grip, Jan Stefan Karlsson, and Gunnevi Sundelin, first published in the International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics (Volume 33, Issue 4, April 2004): "Work-related neck and shoulder disorders are a great problem for string musicians; a playing technique with more relaxed muscles and a greater variation in the muscle activity pattern, i.e., with shorter sequences at a varied number of amplitude levels... might prevent pain." Oops.
An epic performance captured pristine, unfurling its massive limbs patiently and cannily over the course of seventy-plus minutes. Conrad mingles amongst his trusted wood-and-steel sidekicks, engaged in both age-old conversations and inspired new inquisitions; Yeh bookends his passive/aggressive behaviour on violin with spare piano incantations; Duchs acts as a ghostly anchor, casting formidable binding and deft velocity. Yes, the drones do flow freely, but these reliable horizons fracture into surprising detours, tearing apart not only the instruments and players involved, but the expectations of the music itself.
Recorded in Sofienberg Church of Oslo, Norway in February 2008, and mastered by Jim O'Rourke in Tokyo, Japan. CD in digipak cover.
Tony Conrad: harpsicord and violin.
C.Spencer Yeh: piano and violin.
Michael F. Duch: double bass
Following on from Tony Conrad’s meeting with Genesis P-Orridge, Musculus Trapezius documents a live encounter with another major violin modernist, C. Spencer Yeh of Burning Star Core. Joined by double bassist Michael F. Duch, Yeh doubles on piano and violin while Conrad plays violin and harpsichord. There’s a grand, baroque quality to the piece’s construction, sailing out on single notes of piano like a more-dilated Advent before Conrad’s violin shoots huge beams of light and sustained tones straight down the throat of the darkness. When Yeh joins him, the music takes on the otherworldly feel of William Lawes viol music but when the drone rises to the roof it has all of the alien majesty of Conrad and Faust’s Outside The Dream Syndicate. Excellent. (Volcanic Tongue)