There’s something very special about the way composer Marc Sabat articulates a sense of repetition in this piece, and with each subsequent listen I struggle to think of another work that operates in quite the same way. Repetition is interesting because it has a way of dissociating over time – of changing how a single musical object is experienced and how that perception becomes altered. Ostensibly there are only a few components to this piece, a duet with composer and musician Julia Holter: the direct, relatively uninflected speaking voices of both Sabat and Holter alongside violin, performed by Sabat, and piano, performed by Holter. To my ears, there are two different environments going on – one in the voices, and the other instrumental – and it is remarkable the way that Sabat is able to create such a minimal but effective kind of polyphony between the two, each moving independently while also contributing to the whole. Texturally, the voices produce a subtle exchange, moving from Holter’s at the opening of the piece to Sabat’s at the close. The text creates such an incredible balance between any and all disjoint of meaning as well as a kind of unease as the phrase “you may not want to be here” is constantly suggested but never made explicit. This kind of structure, in which two or more ideas are very slowly exchanged, is one that I very much adore, and it’s executed very simply and beautifully in this piece. That being said, it is the instrumental counterpoint to the texted speech that, for me, creates an unbelievable depth that shifts with each listen. One of the hallmarks of minimal approaches to composition is an effect in which the minute becomes grand, in which specific details and moments in time are amplified in weight and magnitude simply by way of the attention and space they are given. That’s absolutely true here, and Sabat is able to offer such gorgeous timbral variety as the instrumental repetitions similarly cycle through at a gradual pace from a breathy sort of sul pont violin, to a pizzicato violin, then to both dry and prepared piano, then back to an even more dissonant violin, with a number of overlaps and combinations of colours and melodic shapes throughout. Like so much music of a minimalist nature, it’s difficult to describe exactly what this piece feels like as it’s unfolding because the work is not about the tangible components so much as what happens when they’re made to interact in the course of performing or listening. And this work is especially sculptural to my ears in that sense, revealing things that are small but magnificent when given their moment to emerge.
words by Sarah Davachi
released November 1, 2021
Composition, Violin and Voice by Marc Sabat / Voice and Prepared Piano by Julia Holter
Recorded by Adam Asnan (Roter Salon, Berlin) / Mixing by Dario Lozano-Thornton / Mastering by Giuseppe Ielasi / Photo by Seth Lower / Design by Seth Weiner
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