Cristián Alvear is a guitarist and Gudinni Cortina a media artist. Together they tackle American composer Mark So’s ‘And suddenly from all this there came some horrid music’, and their interpretation of the piece seems to be constantly popping into life as quickly and unexpectedly as the title suggests, a balloon burst repeated and extended from multiple perspectives. It’s not like a cinematic moment subdivided into numerous almost identical frames; each pluck of Alvear’s guitar, each rotation of Cortina’s modified turntable is fully (t)here, a fact only emphasised by its position in a sequence of repetitions that seem both unique and (almost) identical at the same time.
Unlike a lot of other projects involving Alvear, ‘And suddenly…’ is neither quiet nor slow in tempo, though the latter quality varies from walking pace to quicksilver march. Cortina works through a number of timbres: a fast sucking of air, clicks like footsteps, metallic scraping, brittle snapping, hollow clatter, and the sort of squeak and squeal a balloon makes when it’s being tied into the shape of a dog or a fish or a flower. Not a huge variety of sounds, but intelligently and imaginatively used, which is the best way round. The contrast with Alvear’s even, steady playing (a quality that has made him the go-to guitarist for a certain class of quietist experimental music) is very nice indeed.
Music doesn’t have to be near-inaudible in volume or change at glacial rates to deeply affect your state of mind and way of perceiving the world: this is the hypothesis that a generation of post-Wandelweiser composers and performers appear to be testing. Though a certain intensity of the moment remains present, the tension and not-quite-yet of music by the likes of Beuger, Malfatti, Sfirri et al is replaced in ‘And suddenly…’ by a complete and present fullness that hides nothing. A refreshing change of gear that brings new thoughts and ideas to the table — just as experimental music should do.