Stephen Nachmanovitch

Electric and Acoustic Improvisations, Vol. 1

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Violin partnerships are rarely as succinct and bold as this cooperative effort between Stephen Nachmanovitch and Timothy Summers. What makes their improvisations distinctive is that they mix it up on different sonic levels while retaining a thoughtful yet innovative approach. They both play the modern Argentinean-made UrbanStrings solid-body processed electric violins, 18th and 20th century acoustic violins, violas, and a mezzo violin from different instrument makers worldwide. This allows these two very skilled musicians a wider palette than would normally be available to string performers restricted to just one type of instrument. There's a single duet of electric and acoustic violins, as the opener "Far and Wide" introduces clarion calls and the electric instrument sounding as horn-like as a soprano saxophone. The acoustic tracks include the playful "Chase/Fly" with both men on viola; the busy bee and spatial "Helix 1" and "Helix 2," respectively; and the viola/tanpura Indian rag-styled "VT Heaven." Seven selections with the twin electric violins include "Four Rain Phases," evoking echoing ruminations, processed percussive outpourings, a buzzing image in the third phase, and the sounds of showers ending with a singing approach in the final phase. "First Men on Antares" clearly is a futuristic motif, offering soundtrack-type stark imagery into the vast unknown. "Mirrored Traces" perhaps tenders the best of deep reaching virtuosity from the two, combining elements at once earthy and galactic. One would have wished for a better guideline in the booklet regarding who plays which instrument and in what stereo channel. No matter -- this is a humanely musical and different approach to improvisation that deserves wider attention, as do the consummate and literate players involved.

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