Belgian cellist Arne Deforce is the locus of Megadisc's release Advaya. Along for the ride is renowned English composer Jonathan Harvey, whose works for solo cello share the platform with two of Deforce's arresting composed improvisations, recorded "on a stormy night" in a Roman-esque chapel located in the mountains of the Auvergne.
Deforce and Harvey have thus far enjoyed a close and fruitful association. Not long after Advaya was issued, Deforce gave the world premiere of Harvey's Cello Concerto in Glasgow. Jonathan Harvey's 1982 piece Curve with Plateau sounds strangely bluesy at first, but ultimately develops toward a violent outburst that subsequently falls apart. Harvey's Advaya (1994) was composed with a basic plan to exploit the upper partials of the harmonic series without resorting to fundamental tones. Nonetheless, a wide variety of sound typifies the work: a creaking door, the palpitations of pseudo-tabla music, "going-down-the-drain" swells of digital delay, chemical "chords" resulting from an interface between cellist and electronics that makes Deforce sound like a one-man string quartet. Oddly, in terms of exploiting non-harmonic partials within the harmonic series, Curve with Plateau seems the more successful of the two.
Deforce's own "composed improvisations" are somewhat more fulfilling. Limen utilizes a formal strategy observing an overall A-B-A structure that places the quieter music at the ends and the more agitated stuff in the middle. The opening of Limen sort of sounds like a postmodern take on a sonata by Heinrich von Biber, albeit one partly erased from the page, as it centers around the notes of a single triad and its harmonics, approaching them with just about every thinkable combination that can be derived on the cello. Riti is heavily percussive and has a menacing, marching quality that is reminiscent of the boots of troops slogging through a heavy rainstorm of the sort that was brewing at the time this music was being created.
Deforce is a strong voice among those improvisers operating within a classical sphere. Once one tires of the niceties of Yo-Yo Ma's take on Appalachian fiddle music, the listener might want to seek out the grittier, more ominous and otherworldly efforts found on Arne Deforce's Advaya.