Saturday, February 16, 2019

New Music for Saxophone-Bassoon Duet

from the bandcamp Web page

The Post-Haste Reed Duo consists of Sean Fredenburg playing different sizes of saxophone and bassoonist Javier Rodriguez. Yesterday Aerocade Music released the pair’s second album Donut Robot! Currently, has only created an MP3 download Web page for the album; but bandcamp has created a Web page making the album available as a compact disc, as well as for download. This appears to be the duo’s second album, the first having been released about three years ago.

Regular readers know by now that I have attended concerts presented by chamber ensembles consisting of unlikely combinations of instruments. These groups usually build up their repertoire by working with contemporary composers; and for several years the San Francisco Conservatory of Music provided an excellent environment for symbiotic relationships between composers and performers. The Post-Haste Reed Duo is based in Portland, Oregon; but Donut Robot! suggests that they have found a similar sweet spot for such symbiosis.

The album consists of six new works, each by a different composer. In “order of appearance” on the album, the composers are Ruby Fulton, Drew Baker, Michael Johanson, Edward J. Hines, Andres Reinkemeyer, and Takuma Itoh. Perhaps the most salient impression left by this album is how diverse these six contributors are in their approach to composition. However, that diversity is reinforced by the virtuosity of the performers.

That virtuosity is evident immediately through the choice of instrumentation. One might think that a saxophone would overwhelm a bassoon. However, the full extent of the album is matched by a wide dynamic range, with just the right balance of the two instruments at any level of loud or soft blowing. Thus, some of the most engaging moments are the subtle ones, such as the shimmering sonorities of Baker’s “First Light,” in which subtlety emerges through microtonal oscillations that demand seriously attentive listening.

In contrast both of the Post-Haste instruments have a reputation for playful rhetoric. As might be guessed, the very title of the album is a nod to such playfulness (as is the artwork on the physical release). The album title is also the title of the first track by Fulton, apparently inspired by many of the absurd ways in which autocorrect can make mistakes. However, Fulton’s score also explores the dark side of the consequences of some of those mistakes.

The most unique offering is probably the piece by Hines, whose full title is “Hommage: Saygun et Bartók en Turquie 1936 (Chanson de Hatice Dekioğlu).” Dekioğlu was a thirteen-year-old girl when Belá Bartók and Ahmet Adnan Saygun recorded her singing an Armenian folk song in 1936 on an ethnomusicological field trip in Turkey. During their performance, both Fredenburg and Rodriguez recite the English translation of the text of the song Bartók and Saygun recorded; and the source recording is played as part of the coda of Hines’ composition.

Taken as a whole, the album provides an engaging journey through the diversity of the efforts of the different composers. No individual piece feels as if it is going on for too long, and the mood shifts from one composition to the next endow the entire album with at least a suggestion of an overarching narrative. If that narrative is a product of the unique sonorities that arise when saxophone and bassoon meet, then it is worth anticipating what the next Post-Haste project will be!

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