Wirripang, CD WIRR051.1
Reviewed by Dan Bendrups, March 2nd, 2014
Comprovisation (combining composition and improvisation) is an increasingly prominent feature of contemporary music, with exponents drawn from a range of backgrounds, including art music, jazz, and other commercial and contemporary music domains. Indeed, the act of comprovisation can offer a panacea for the strictures and structures of more formal musical pursuits, making it attractive to some very accomplished musicians.
This CD presents the improvisational and comprovisational work of individuals with long trajectories in their respective domains: trumpet virtuoso Tinkler, composer Micheal Hannan and composer-producer Deacon. It is the product of over two decades of collaboration between Hannan and Deacon, extended to include Tinkler’s unique capabilities on trumpet. The result is a musical journey of surprising depth and variety, given the sparse sonic material from which it draws. Tinkler stands out for his artful manipulation of the trumpet, applying a range of unusual techniques to produce a sound that is sometimes recognisable, and at other times completely alien to what might be expected of this instrument. His contribution is arranged and produced by Hannan and Deacon with a great deal of finesse, giving each of the album’s 12 tracks an intelligible contour, and a pleasing interplay of loud and soft, fast and slow passages.
The sounds on the album range from delightfully light impressions of whale song to clusters of jarring multiphonics stacked in very close harmony and electronically elongated and cross-faded into each other, and the album as a whole requires a degree of willingness on the part of the listener to submit to an unconventional sound palette. This said, the well-structured composition of each track ensures sufficient contrast and continuity, and the result is never boring. While one trumpet might struggle to provide an hour of material, the measured use of studio techniques including different rates of reverb, multitracking, sampling and the montage of recorded fragments of trumpet provides more elements for composition. The final track, African Polyphony, is a particularly good example of this, with at least three layers of multitracked trumpet in three distinct pitch areas, all playing a regular rhythmic ostinato but with slight timing variances that lead to interesting clashes and convergences when more than one track is audible. Overall, the record is a subtle but well-crafted foray into the slippery nexus of improvisation and composition, and is of interest both as a tour de force in contemporary trumpet and as a study in contemporary composition.