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Contact! 10.2

Spring 1997

In Review

Jerry Hunt

A CD review by alcides lanza

Jerry Hunt [1943-1993] was an American composer who kept very much to himself, quietly and consistently exploring unknown sonic territories, sometimes inspired by the remoteness of small-town places in Texas. This compact disc, Lattice, is a remastering from the original LP recordings from 1979 [Irida 0026 and Irida 0032]. Lattice is a small treasure for the inquisitive listener who searches for novelties by little- known composers. In this case, the composer himself is playing on his modified mechanical and electronic instruments.

The opening number, Lattice, features repetitive motives on superimposed stratified tracks. Of interest within this rather long opus, is the climactic ostinato ca. 10' into the piece, which also explores the lower ranges. At this point, a sequence of rapid runs seems to oppose the verticality of his streams of chords, accented with the jingling of bells which are attached to the performer's arms. Of similar importance is the "pedal" point generated with horizontal lines at 18:30, converging a few seconds later into an almost tonal area. A Coda is perceivable from 20' on, re-elaborating earlier materials with a last minute stressing of the lower octaves, but still intriguingly mixing with higher sounds. The more "down-to-earth" conclusion involves a slow ritenuto, and an abrupt stop.

The second piece, Transform [Stream} from 1977, captivates the listener's attention with its sibilant beginning, in marked contrast with the percussive piano of Lattice. Written in memory of the composer's father, this guttural [almost voiced] piece orbits at the edges of clear vocalizations. It is more of a breathing assemblage, rhythmic at times, with the "pops" of close miking intermingling with jingling sounds. It is more melodic in the stratas of hinted vocalizations, including formant filter situations almost spoken - but not quite - merging breathing and sibilations. I was tenderly touched by the last whistled participation [… a sonic reference to his father…?].

This unusual CD proceeds to piece #3, Cantegral, which immediately changes the mood. It is dark and ominous, blending vocalizations, distorted speech and guttural, primitive utterances. Speed changes make the vocal material change identity, becoming almost instrumental.

Transphalba is a haunting piece, all its melodic components punctuated with short noise spurts, having at the same time an accompaniment made out of a stream of bouncing noises. It is remarkably different from the others due to the inclusion of longer lasting sounds, with clear crescendo and diminuendo profiles.

The last piece, Volta [Kernel], is primarily a vocal piece, the solo vocal line quite removed from semantic implications. It is more of a litany or a prayer. The percussion contribution is convincing and delivered with elegant dynamic nuances and precious synchronicity.

All these pieces were written between 1976 and 1979, so they represent the middle-period for this composer. All pieces share studio techniques like filtering, looping, and naive multitracking. The composer delivers with assurance, not only the piano realizations but also in his vocalizations and percussion playing. We must accept these versions as definitive, since the improvisatory aspects, lack of transmittable notation, and the passing of the composer would make any other performance of these pieces impossible.

This CD is available from CRI.

- alcides lanza

© CEC 1997


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