Thea Farhadian / Klaus Kürvers
USA BLACK COPPER EDITIONS blackcopper002 CD (2016)
In a week when Donald Trump and Angela Merkel got together to shoot the breeze at the White House, here’s another US-German collaborative enterprise for you to consider. Listeners will decide for themselves which they find the most edifying.
Thea Farhadian is a San Francisco Bay Area violinist, with deep roots in classical music as well as avant garde experimentalism and improvisation. A one time member of the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, she’s since created an impressive catalogue of solo projects, collaborations, gallery works, acoustic, electronic and laptop experiments. Klaus Kürvers picked up the old bull fiddle in the 1960s, playing with the Essen Youth Symphony Orchestra as well as numerous jazz, free jazz and jazz rock combos. After a short 40 year break to work as an architect and cultural historian, he’s now an active member of the Berlin improvisers’ scene.
The fruits of their collaboration can be enjoyed on eXcavations, with twelve miniature improvisations for violin and double bass. The title suggests an archaeological approach, scraping away the layers to reveal more and more of what lies beneath. There’s certainly a lot of scraping going on (quite literally), and, at times, the double bass makes a noise like a stone sarcophagus being prised open. But it’s also true in a metaphorical sense, as deeper and deeper structures are revealed, hints of jazz tunes and chamber music emerging from the noise like fragments of Roman mosaic being turned up in a ploughed field. The artists themselves talk about “evoking a sense of the past” and creating a “rusty” sound, so the title is well chosen.
One question that it’s worth asking about improvised music is how well you feel the musicians are responding to each other. If it feels like they’re all just banging and scraping away without actually listening to each other, it’s not a lot of fun for anyone who wasn’t there at the time. On the other hand, if it feels like they’re really paying attention and creating something together in the moment, the results can be quite magical. I’m pleased to report that this record succeeds on that count.
eXcavations is the second release on the Black Copper label 1, a new imprint dedicated to improvised music. The website was down when I tried to check it out, but hopefully they’re still with us, preparing to launch more of these satisfying sounds into the world. Or perhaps Black Copper too has become an archaelogical artefact, awaiting excavation from the midden heap of defunct labels. Either way, it’s worthy of discovery.