Listening to this collective effort of nine musicians interpreting Rhodri Davies's 2017 piece Transversal Time, the idea of the "less is more" aesthetic comes to mind, as the concerted sounds add up to one efficiently moving organism. It is not surprising to learn from the excellent liner notes written by David Toop that there is much more at work here than meets the ear, although it all makes sense.
Toop points out that the piece "encompasses many of those sensations and perceptions of time that are embodied by music," and that "improvising musicians develop acute sensitivities to body clock, breath, pulses and the silent transformations of time-between time." Further, there is the idea that "For its starting point [Transversal Time] assigns different time systems — Standard Time, Decimal Time, and Hex Time — to individual musicians." These ideas are discernible in the slowly evolving nature of the piece intended for the nine improvising musicians involved. The effect is of a unified and simple cohesive sound evolving over 38 minutes that puts a listener into a deeply meditative state.
Most interesting among the points that Toop makes, however, is the fact that the composer's family history is a likely source of Davies' approach here. Davies' grandfather ran a business that involved precision repairs on watches and clocks, which Davies' own father took over. Further ideas about the significance of time are elaborated in the informative notes that accompany this release, which the listener will be enlightened by.
The singular, cohesive, dare I say "clockwork," effect of the piece, almost sounding as if it were the work of one musician, involves, in fact nine musicians of a surprising variety of timbral sources: electronics, harp, zither, contrabass recorder, cello, piano, vocals, as well as computer programming. The whole came together in a live performance recorded on April 13, 2018 at Chapter, Cradiff by Simon Reynell, with the participation of Ryoko Akam, Sarah Hughes, Sofia Jernberg, Pia Palme, Adam Parkinson, Lucy Railton, Pat Thomas and Dafne Vicente-Sandoval.
The experience of the piece is a soothing sonic reminder that yes, time passes, and that it is the one fundamental denominator under which we all function, as well as being probably one of the most significant variables in the musical experience. What is more important, however, is the sensation one gets that the changes that occur through time are more meaningful experienced than analyzed, as they stir the profoundly gratifying sense of the soul at work.
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