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Robert Black: Possessed

Mark Sullivan By

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Double bassist Robert Black (a member of the Bang on a Can All-Stars) became fascinated by the desert landscape around Moab, Utah after an invitation to play at a music festival there. He improvised this entire site-specific environmental duet "on location" over the course of three days in August, 2013. The project was documented with video and photography: the full package includes a surround-sound DVD, CD, and a visual art companion book.

The opening track "Hunter Canyon: Dawn" Part 1 immediately establishes the setting: bird and insect sounds precede Black's entrance, on bass played arco. Part 2 is a percussive interlude, the sound of the bass's body echoing in the natural canyon reverberation chamber. Part 3 returns to arco playing with a melodic, pastoral feeling. This kind of contrast is typical of the rest of the program: most of the tracks are in the two to three minute range, and each has a distinct identity.

"Pritchard Culvert: Morning" Part 1 features a hypnotic rhythmic ostinato, while Part 2 contrasts high bowed sounds with very low sounds. "Day Canyon: Afternoon" Part 1 is a busy, skittering pizzicato exercise. "Dragonfly Culvert: Evening" Part 1 has short arco phrases with natural reverberation, like a call and response between two instruments. "Hunter Canyon: Night" Part 1 has an especially melodic theme, with insect accompaniment. The closing Part 4 includes the same insects, but with a calm pizzicato bass part.

Even without the visuals there is a strong sense of place in this music. Black could have recreated the acoustic spaces in a studio and dubbed in insect and bird sounds, I suppose. But there's no denying the inspiration driving these improvisations.

Track Listing: Hunter Canyon: Dawn Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Pritchard Culvert: Morning Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Day Canyon: Afternoon Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Dragonfly Culvert: Evening Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Hunter Canyon: Night Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

Personnel: Robert Black: double bass

Title: Possessed | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Cantaloupe Music

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