Ryoko Akama: electronics
Rhodri Davies: pedal harp, electric harp
Sarah Hughes: zither
Sofia Jernberg: vocals
Pia Palme: contrabass recorder
Adam Parkinson: programming
Lucy Railton: cello
Pat Thomas: piano, electronics
Dafne Vicente-Sandoval: bassoon
Co-commissioned by Huddersfield Festival, Chapter, and Counterflows
Multi-instrumentalist Rhodri Davies created the piece Transversal Time in 2017. This recording is of its performance at Chapter, captured by Simon Reynell (also known for his own label, Another Timbre). The assembled musicians are a who’s who of today’s experimental cohort and Davies gives them imaginative prompts for the music they are to play. These involve a variety of time systems – standard time, decimal time, and hex time – creating a layering of tempos.
The tone colors elicited are particularly attractive and, while often blended, each performer gets a standout moment. Sofia Jernberg’s wordless vocals play a role early on, then electronics from Ryoko Akama, Adam Parkinson, and Pat Thomas create sine tones and glissandos that are then imitated as sustained pitches and slides by the rest of the ensemble. Later, birdlike chirps become an extended call and response. The prevailing dynamic level is piano and there often is a delicate sensibility to the proceedings.
The incorporation of contrabass recorder, played by Pia Palme, and bassoon, provide a sturdy grounding for the rest of the treble instruments. A lengthy percussive interlude by Davies, Lucy Dalton, and Thomas combines harp, cello, and inside-the-piano work. Davies alternates between pedal and electric harps and is very much a member of the ensemble rather than a soloist. That said, one can hear the harp as an instrument that urges the various time streams forward and in that sense Davies is a master of ceremonies. Gradually, electronics and then the rest of the ensemble are reincorporated, the different speeds creating a hocketing effect. A coda of soft sustained notes and electronic smears is a fitting denouement.
Transversal Time lasts thirty-eight minutes, but is so absorbing that it feels like it passes in a blink of an eye. The interwoven textures reward multiple listenings, and the recording comes highly recommended.