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Classical Music Review

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With Strings
Live Sampling in Counterpoint


Composer: Jeff Morris
Performed by: Ulrich Maiß (electric cello) and Eric KM Clark (violin)
Label: Ravello Records
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 08 February 2019

Jeff Morris's second album for Rovello Records, With Strings, explores the possibilities of 21st-century counterpoint. He builds up rich musical textures by sampling violin and cello live and folding them back into the mix, influencing the performers in turn...

Following on from 2018's Interfaces: Jazz Meets Electronics, Jeff Morris releases his new album. With Strings is not going to appeal to everyone. If you like your music to be harmonious and traditionally structured... you're going to be confused by this "noise". Some tracks, for example 'n0_cur473', might even set your teeth on edge. It's the equivalent of hearing fingernails scratched down a chalkboard.

Over the course of these 9 tracks (50 min, 59 sec) composer Jeff Morris experiments with the electronic manipulation of the violin and cello. It opens with the six-part 'B4ch1007 (“Bach Loot”)', a vivid, glitchy fantasy on J. S. Bach's music, with inspiration from Lou Reed's classic Metal Machine Music.

The three-part 'Three Improvisations with Violin' showcases improvised works in different interactive environments: a virtual string quintet, a tangled strand of echoes, and a microscopic journey inside the materials that make up the violin itself. Morris controls these musical constructs live, which are inspired by a house of mirrors and Einstein's daydream of riding beside a beam of light. Using control interfaces like a gamepad and Nintendo Wii Remotes (Wiimotes), Morris himself plays an integral role to the proceedings.

While it's an interesting listening experience it does get old a little quickly. A single piece would have been engaging but an entire album soon starts to grate. One that fans of experimental music and electronic manipulation will be enthralled by. Everyone else will be left wondering what on earth they are listening to.


Darren Rea

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