Mantra Percussion recently recorded Aaron Siegel’s Science is Only a Sometime Friend for his Lockstep imprint. The version that appears here, a single, continuously played forty minute long piece for eight glockenspiels and organ, is somewhat different from the original conception of the piece. In its outdoor live version, passersby were invited to contribute improvisatory additions on extra instruments (one can see examples of this on YouTube).
While the studio version may not capture the delightful aleatory of its sister conception, it is a strong piece in its own right. Siegel certainly owes a debt to minimalism, in particular to works by Steve Reich such as Music for Mallet Instruments and the more recent Mallet Quartet. It shares an affinity with some of the drone partials of works byLa Monte Young and even the upper harmonics employed in certain spectral works as well.
But it also channels more recent innovations. It’s tintinnabular halo of overlapping glockenspiel lines take on more futuristic timbres, at turns mimicking micro-polyphonic synthesis and the homemade instruments of Tristan Perich. Indeed, this is music that is less about repetition as pulsating ostinato and more about its ability to create resonant accumulations, sonic washes, that gradually morph. It’s an elegantly shaped and often beguiling sound world. While Siegel’s view of Science as a fair weather companion is a common one in our skeptical era, there’s no doubting that the supple organicism of this work, outdoors or on the hi-fi, is well nigh irresistible.