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Cat HOPE (b. 1966)
Ephemeral Rivers
Miss Fortune X for AM radio, viola, cello, piano and cymbals (2012) [7:07]
Cruel and Usual, for string quartet, live electronics and four bass amplifiers (2011) [8:03]
Broken Approach, for bass drum kit, AM radios and wind-up mechanisms (2014) [12:02]
Dynamic Architecture 1, for solo double bass and electronics (2015) [21:36]
Sogno 102, for bass clarinet, bass flute, viola, cello, piano and live electronics (2013) [7:02]
Miss Fortune X, Sogno 102: Decibel
Cruel and Usual: Zachary Johnston (violin), Lizzy Welsh (violin), Phoebe Grey (viola), Judith Hamman (cello), Samuel Dunscombe (electronics)
Broken Approach: Vanessa Tomlinson (percussion soloist)
Dynamic Architecture 1: Mark Cauvin (bass soloist)
rec. 2014-15 Soundfield Studio; 2011 North Melbourne Town Hall (Cruel and Usual)
HAT[Now]ART 200 [55:53]

Acknowledged as a portrait of the artist this CD is also a canvas for her regular colleagues. It promotes the chamber-scaled works of Cat Hope in a way that convincingly charts her compositional directions in a half-decade period between 2011 and 2015.

Those directions embrace the electronic and acoustic in a profitable symbiosis, as one can hear in Miss Fortune X, the name of the radio-controlled model aeroplane owned by Hope’s late father. Scored for viola, cello, piano, cymbals and AM radio, this sonically invigorating music both suggests and incarnates elements of the triumphalism of the model, the harp-like strumming of the piano and the instrumental drone effect – clearly a reference to the engine - building up a sound picture in the listener’s mind. The dynamics carefully reference the soaring and return of the model, the music evoking with suggestive intensity: in this respect the AM radio is a perfect integratory sound.

The live electronics, four bass amplifiers and string quartet that play Cruel and Usual – there is significant distortion of the acoustic instruments – generate a kind of overlapping sonic wail effect which is not surprising when one reads that the music was given its impetus via news reports of incarceration practices in American prisons. The amplification of the writing - with sawing cello to the fore - and its unremitting insistence is both unsettling and disturbing. The steady disparate soundworlds of Broken Approach – scored for bass drum kit, AM radios and wind–up mechanisms – sees the music move from an intense static quality to percussive–active elements. The use of toys and clocks seems to amplify the idea that this is indeed music about the movement - and perception of - time. It’s performed by its commissioner, Vanessa Tomlinson.

The longest piece is Dynamic Architecture I for solo double bass and electronics, the bass being played in the ‘lying down’ position with three bows. Layering of sound is paramount here, the bass’s gnarls and grinds – one of the bows is strung with a guitar string, not horsehair - seemingly encapsulating the architectural elements at the heart of the music. The resonant, uneasy long-term droning, that gets incrementally louder, is one aspect of a piece that explores the sonic implications of bass and embedded electronics. Finally, there is Sogno 102 in which the bass clarinet, bass flute, violas, cello, piano and live electronics generate their own sampled impression, a procedure originating via Scelsi.

The notes by Christopher Hope explain these complexities in helpful detail. Sound quality is exceptional and card booklet a pleasure to open.

Jonathan Woolf



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