Tectonic Shifts cs365









Integrating a violin inside a Max/MSP-based interactive system, multi-disciplinary artist and teacher Thea Farhadian – a former student with various luminaries of improvisation and electronic composition – lets us inhale fumes of disassembled harmony and dissonant refractions. What separates her from the typical “just-plug-and-let’s-see-what-happens” tedium-transmitting specimens is the ability in rendering the most absurd-sounding complications with sensible unambiguity. Furthermore, several episodes of this 37-minute disc reveal that she’s not afraid of highlighting the magnetism of a romantic modernity through the use of purer tones across transitional environments. The aural transparencies resulting from those variations are heartwarming.

However, Farhadian’s core research is typified by the aleatory qualities of a given soundscape. This puts her in a procedural ambit contiguous to that of fellow avant violinists like Mari Kimura (there are significant differences, though, so do not hold this against the reviewer). The emphasis is on the interrelation between short segments of unconventional melodicism and contexts where microtonal displacement, abrupt breaks and luminous openings act as diversifying complements to the clearer sections of the scores. The brain is lulled into the illusion of storing something that sounds (more or less) familiar. But in a matter of seconds, theoretically extraneous particles acquire functionality to change the physiognomy of our mental picture, forcing us to keep track of multiple voices and itineraries within an extremely pliable solitary counterpoint. The total of the parts forms a startling geometry replete with strange angles and curves; a sort of cosmic biology deprived of the ineffective hyperactivity characterizing countless analogous releases. As the record is spinning for the third time, this listener’s rational defences are being lowered. A very encouraging sign. Massimo Ricci (Touching Extremes)

Farhadian is an American composer and performer with a base in San Francisco and one in Berlin. Her work often is about connecting solo violin and interactive electronics. Combining her classical background as violist (Berkeley Symphony Orchestra) with what she learned for her studies on interdisciplinary arts and electronic music. ‘Tectonic Shifts’ illustrates this. If I’m not mistaken this is her first solo-album. Earlier releases have her in duo and trio line-ups, with Klaus Kürvers (bass), Dean Santomieri (electric guitar), among others. Liner notes on ‘Tectonic Shifts’ say “These pieces for violin and interactive electronics were selected from a cycle of works that blend improvisation and composition. Using Max/MSP software, Tectonic Shifts employs real-time processing to create twisted echoes, jagged rhythms, and microtonal landscapes.” Recorded between 2010 and 2013 in Berlin as well as San Francisco makes this release a document of her investigations into combining violin with electronics, both in a composed and in an improvised setting. Whatever electronic manipulations she uses, always one hears the violin is at the start of it. She expands the sound world of violin into unknown and unheard territories. The music is a constant fight between musicality and experimentation and demanding but interesting journey. Feelings of joy changed for feeling lost. One could feel at home at last, in the closing piece ‘Silverplate’, that is the most conventional and even romantic part of this journey. But it is here that I wanted to be lost again like in the complex ‘Particle party’. Dolf Mulder (Vital Weekly)

Découverte récemment en duo avec le contrebassiste Klaus Kürvers (Excavations/ Black Copper), la violoniste Thea Farhadian nous livre ici un excellent ouvrage exécuté au violon seul et électronique interactive qui se distingue clairement au niveau formel, sonore et musical d’un artiste comme Phil Wachsmann et qui apporte à ce type de démarche une contribution bienvenue. Tectonic Shifts, sans doute parce qu’Iranienne basée à San Francisco, elle est sensible à l’activité sismique. 12 pièces avec leurs dynamiques propres et une logique sophistiquée indiquent bien à quel point d’achèvement cette musicienne est parvenue. Son système électronique transforme, fragmente, réassemble et extrapole de manière créative le jeu du violon à la jointure de l’improvisation et de la construction composée. On entend très peu la source sonore du violon acoustique : il s’agit principalement de la médiation de l’instrument lui-même générateur d’une musique électronique aux paramètres très complexes où on retrace plus ou moins aisément la présence du violon, son fantôme. L’action de l’archet tressaute, non sans faire parfois penser à la gestuelle d’un DJ alternatif, sur des pulsations subites et aléatoires créant des contrepoints diversifiés en se jouant des textures, des loops, rebonds, scratches, miasmes, …. Osmose, contraste, paradoxe, surprise, voicings synthétiques, grain sonore, frictions, frottements, pluridimensionalité, fil conducteur réitéré d’une pièce à l’autre. Celles-ci se terminent parfois de manière abrupte, incertaine, fins coupées, chœurs hybrides pour le morceau de clôture. Vraiment intéressant, l’ambition créatrice de la musicienne étant nourri et soutenu par un talent indiscutable et une solide expérience. Jean-Michel van Schouwburg (Orynx)

The word multi-faceted would seem to have been coined with Thea Farhadian in mind. An innovative violinist, composer, improviser, label founder, and educator with home bases in San Francisco and Berlin, she's covered an incredible amount of ground in her life: she's studied violin and classical Arabic music with Simon Shaheen; earned degrees in Philosophy, Interdisciplinary Arts, and Electronic Music (the latter an M.F.A. from Mills College); and has taught violin for a quarter century; in addition, she's the founder of BlackCopper Editions, a label dedicated to improvised and experimental music.
While two earlier recordings, RedBlue (with guitarist Dean Santomieri) and eXcavations (with bassist Klaus Kürvers), were issued on BlackCopper in 2015, Farhadian's latest, Tectonic Shifts, comes to us from Creative Sources Recordings. The collection finds her operating in solo mode, though with her violin playing augmented by live electronic processing (Max/MSP the program involved), the sound field expands considerably beyond that of a single instrument.
Among those who inspired her was electronic music composer Maggi Payne, who encouraged Farhadian to explore the intersections between “experimentation, technical excellence, and compositional intent.” All three come together in the thirty-seven-minute recording, which plays like a boldly explorative set of experimental pieces generated in real-time (in fact, the twelve tracks, which include live and studio performances, were recorded between 2010 and 2013 at different locales in the San Francisco Bay Area and Berlin).
The violin is not so radically altered by processing that the instrument disappears from view, though its sound is so dramatically expanded upon, the settings often suggest a solo violinist accompanied by electronic chamber ensemble. Even that's a rather misleading characterization, however, in that it positions the two at separate poles; more accurately, the violin and Max/MSP-produced elements inhabit a shared, ever-mutating space, such that the sounds within these microtonal landscapes are always intertwined and swim in the same waters. As experimental as the material is, it's not lacking for musicality. In some settings, bowed and plucked violin fragments appear alongside rapidly shifting flutterings of processed detail; in a haunting piece such as “Ice Wave,” however, a less frenetic approach is adopted that allows the violin's natural timbres to assert themselves more audibly.
Regardless of the differences between them, Farhadian's explorations always show an advanced and fully engaged intelligence at work. Interestingly, she chose to close the album with its most straightforwardly musical setting, “Silverplate,” whose strings are left free of processing-related disruption for the full measure of the track's four-minute running time. While it's not necessarily characteristic of the album in general, it certainly enhances the positive impression the listener takes away from the recording when it's over. (Textura)

A violinista, autora de “radio art”, performer e videasta norte-americana Thea Farhadian é uma nómada da música criativa dos nossos dias. Com dupla base na Bay Area da Califórnia e em Berlim, está em constante viagem, muito em especial pelo Próximo e Médio Orientes, sendo uma estudiosa da cultura árabe e da dos seus avós arménios. Licenciada em filosofia e com mestrados em artes transdisciplinares e música electrónica, esta antiga aluna de Maggi Payne, Chris Brown e Fred Frith no Mills College que já pertenceu à Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, quando esta foi dirigida por Kent Nagano, não circula, na realidade, em nenhuma particular “cena”. Passou recentemente um par de meses em Portugal, observando o circuito da improvisação e participando nele, em concertos com músicos como Ernesto Rodrigues, Abdul Moimême, Maria do Mar e Eduardo Chagas, entre outros.

Foi na editora do primeiro dos mencionados que saiu este álbum a solo de Farhadian, “Tectonic Shifts”, no qual ouvimos o seu violino em processamentos “live” por computador. O curioso, tendo em conta o título do disco, é que a música dada a ouvir tem um carácter líquido e uma fragilidade que não coincidem com a ideia que fazemos dos movimentos da crusta terrestre. Tudo denuncia a formação e o percurso da instrumentista na música clássica e o vocabulário utilizado tem claras inspirações arábica e arménia, mas se alguma estruturação previamente definida existe por estes temas, a opção improvisacional é determinante para os desfechos. Não se trata, porém, de uma improvisação informada pelo jazz: mais intervenientes são alguns recursos do experimentalismo, mormente através da aplicação de técnicas extensivas. Se por vezes julgamos ouvir etéreos coros e orquestras de cordas no meio das sínteses de som, de acordo com o padrão de beleza instalado pelas músicas sacras ao longo dos tempos e em vários lugares do mundo, o que predomina são os bruitismos acústicos e digitais e um “abuso” do violino que se percebe surgir com intuitos de auto-armadilhamento, sujando o que poderia parecer demasiado “bonito”. Muito bom. Rui Eduardo Paes (Jazz.pt)

Thea Farhadian is credited with “violin & electronics,” so you go into it having at least some idea of what you are in for. I was unfamiliar with this artist, but she is based in the San Francisco bay area and Berlin. She is classically trained, with an M.F.A. in Electronic Music. So now that we know the background, let’s get into the music and see what we have here. Overall, this is interesting improvised stings. A bit chaotic, but still holds together well. At times (e.g., “Time Shift), she is playing the instruments in unconventional ways that sounds lightly processed. There is a lot of processing at other times. For example, “Splinter” and “Particle Party” sound like a recording that has been spliced up on tape and then fed through a dirty cassette player that ate the tape. Reminds me a bit of Bob Ostertag’s “Attention Span,” which is a good thing. “Vertical” sounds like she is rubbing the instrument and abusing the stings. Others go outside of the chaotic feel; “Silverplate,” for example, is a peaceful droning track with just a hint of dissonance. If you want experimental strings, this is one to pick up. This album weighs in at around 37 minutes. eskaton (Chain DLK)