All sounds occur within a space, and changing the properties of that space can be a useful way of creating new and interesting sounds. Designing spaces in order to achieve certain acoustic effects dates back at least as far as ancient Greek amphitheatres, a history that also encompasses medieval churches and cathedrals, Victorian lecture theatres, and modern concert halls. On their tour of resonant spaces in the Czech Republic in 2015, the trio of George Cremaschi, Irene Kepl, and Petr Vrba performed and recorded in a small church, two monasteries, and a hall in the former summer palace of a royal family, always seeking out architectures that provided the right balance of reverberation and airiness. “Resonators” presents some of the results of their efforts.
‘Affective Labor’ begins with deep double bass notes and tentative resonant tones, maintaining a slow, tense pace. There’s a weightlessness to this music, as if the quivering violin, distorted growls, and buzzing tones were floating in zero gravity — an effect undoubtedly related to the reverberation times of the space it is sounding in, the lengths of these times giving an impression of the scale of the architecture. Later, a thick, raspy squeal from Vrba’s trumpet leads into a big crescendo that suddenly drops back down to near-silence again. A similar sense of weightlessness also pervades ‘Locus Resonatus’, but here multiple looped tones are layered on top of each other to create gorgeous, shifting harmonies. Eventually the chords and resonances combine to fill a broad audible spectrum, a field of sound without any single anchor point, before a loud bright trumpet tone provides a locus around which the other instruments gather.
Two shorter, spikier pieces from Kepl complete the album, their piercing squeaks, deep thrums, pops, buzzes, and thumps using the resonance of the space in which they sound to emphasise attack and suddenness. This trio are far from the first experimental musicians to recruit the resonance of spaces in order to achieve interesting acoustic effects, but they do so extremely well: “Resonators” is full of surprises, complexity, beauty, and nuance, offering music full of real depth and tension while remaining open to the transformations wrought by resonance and reverberations.
Image by Matthias Halibrand