Notes and Editorial Reviews
10 Viola Duets
From the Depths.
Suite for Solo Cello
Hank Dutt (va);
Stephen Kent (didgeridoo);
Parry Karp (vc)
INNOVA 851 (55:38)
This disc, which bears the title
features the talents of violist-composer-improviser Nils Bultmann, who is based in San Francisco. In the sparse liner notes, Bultmann explains that at the time he was composing this music he was “deeply immersed in several multi-media video projects.” Bultmann’s music is difficult to describe. It is tonal but not in a Romantic or late-Romantic vein; it is rhythmic and often set in repeated patterns, but not really Minimalist. Bultmann employs any number of unusual devices in his music, such as portamento as a compositional component and not solely as an expressive element. The 10 Viola Duets that open this CD are indeed unusual and attention-getting, revealing a very different musical mind yet one that connects easily with an open-minded listener. (I also loved the witty titles of these short duets, e.g. “Buzy Body,” “Augward and Dimented,” “Babble Battle,” “Accordionly,” and “Crazy Chicken Dance.”)
Following the viola duets are four duos for viola and didgeridoo, about as weird a combination as I can imagine. (Well, maybe didgeridoo and bagpipe would be weirder.) What’s really strange about them is that Bultmann has circumvented the didgeridoo’s handicap of not being able to play many different tones by varying its rhythmic thrust, thus turning it into a sort of offbeat ground bass to his own playing. I was amazed at Bultmann’s ability to push the viola very high up into the violin range. These duets have a strange effect on the listener, particularly since all the music was improvised into being.
for solo viola features a steady drone underneath on B? while Bultmann plays quasi-Middle Eastern figures, which give way to busier 16th-note excursions. Part of this piece, too, is improvised. The final Suite for Solo Cello, where Bultmann turns things over to his cello-playing friend Parry Karp, is obviously based on Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 but also uses themes from a Bultmann piece called
(its theme put me in mind of the song
God Save the Queen [King]
). The music continually walks a tightrope between the two styles but, by and large, comes down on the side of Bach.
This is an enjoyable and interesting disc, well worth your exploring.
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
Works on This Recording
From the Depths by Nils Bultmann
Nils Bultmann (Viola),
Stephen Kent (Didjeridu)
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