Search results for: farhadian

Integer Studies

We first noted Thea Farhadian with her excellent record Red Blue, where she pitted her violin against the guitar of Dean Santomeri. I enjoyed the melodic and narrative elements of that user-friendly album. Tectonic Shifts (CREATIVE SOURCES RECORDINGS CS 365 CD) is quite a different barrel of herring. It’s all solo, performed by Farhadian with her violin and Max/MSP software in a method which is described under the general term of “interactive electronics”. It’s very far from being melodic, and isn’t much of a story-telling album either. Rather, her concerns this time are “jagged rhythms and microtonal landscapes”, and what emerges are short bursts of music and sound, two or three minutes in length, brief but nonetheless teeming with events and changes, and they have no recognisable tonal centre or pitch to help orient the listener. They are almost wholly abstract shards of brittle, processed sounds, that feel like they’ve been broken off the edge of a sub-atomic particle. And with titles like ‘Light Edge’, ‘Particle Party’, ‘Quantum Shift’ and ‘Integer Study’, we sometimes feel like we’re perusing the chapter headings to a scientific monograph rather than enjoying an album of free improvised music.

All of the above may sound off-putting, but Tectonic Shifts is thrilling. It scores on several points. First the innovative qualities of its soundworld, because I’ve rarely heard such a strange series of emanations derived from the violin; it’s a spine-tingling meld of the human and the machine. There’s a recognisably organic flavour lurking somewhere in these extremely alien tones. Secondly, the amount of detail which she packs in per square inch deserves note; she must be a quicksilver performer, making musical decisions at the speed of light. This means she can say more in two minutes than some Canadian electro-acoustic composers manage in a double-CD set. Concise statements are set forth. Thirdly, I’d like to say something about her actual performances in these unique blends of improvised and composed music; but it’s hard right now to identify precisely what I like. It may be her unusual dynamics, producing intervals in unexpected places, and odd silences where you expect that more should be said. If you can listen your way past the odd surface textures, eventually you’ll get to this core of meaning that is evidently unique to Thea Farhadian’s mind, and it starts to take shape as a musical language. Very good. From 15th December 2016.

Stripe Code

The Sound Projector Radio Show
Friday 31st March 2017

  1. Six Organs Of Admittance, ‘Threshold Of Light’
    From Burning The Threshold, USA DRAG CITY DC664 CD/LP (2017)
  2. Han-Earl Park / Dominic Lash / Mark Sanders / Caroline Pugh, ‘Cliodynamics III’
    From Sirene 1009, IRELAND BUSTER AND FRIENDS BAF000 CD (2017)
  3. Orter Eparg, ‘Couch Surfer’
    From Orter Eparg, NORWAY ØRA FONOGRAM OF 110 CD (2016)
  4. LePage / Lussier et le Quatuor Bozzini, ‘Comment Fair De L’Argent Avec Une Clarinette’
    From Chants Et Danses…With Titres!, CANADA TOUR DE BRAS TD89019 CD (2016)
  5. Thea Farhadian, ‘Time Shift’
  6. François Sarhan, excerpt from Wandering Rocks / Commodity Music, FRANCE LA MUSE EN CIRCUIT ALM007 CD (2016)
  7. Éric Normand, ‘La Rosée’
    From Mattempa, CANADA TOUR DE BRAS TD89018 CD (2016)
  8. Hübsch / Martel / Zoubek, ‘Civilisation’
    From Drought, CANADA TOUR DE BRAS TD89017 CD (2016)
  9. Jean-Luc Guionnet, ‘Dans L’Espace Mental / Arepenter Les Salles’
    From Distances Ouïes Dites, FRANCE POTLATCH P146 CD (2016)
  10. The Urge Trio, excerpt from Live At The Hungry Brain, SWITZERLAND VETO-RECORDS / EXCHANGE 014 CD (2017)
  11. Fred Lonberg-Holm with Adam Golebiewski, ‘Being Run Around Inside’

Digging It

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.

  1. We noted the first one here – Ed.

Clip Art


Thea Farhadian is a musician and composer who also teaches at Santa Cruz. Her many activities include playing the violin, experimenting with electronics, and publishing the odd academic monograph. She’s also recently started a record label, Black Copper Editions, of which the first release showcases his duo work with the guitarist Dean Santomeri. Red Blue (blackcopper001) contains 12 instances of their work, straddling that coveted middle ground between composition and improvisation. A lot of musicians claim to achieve this, but it’s clear instantly that the concise pieces on Red Blue are the result of much preparation, containing evidence of structured melody and repeatable elements tempered with more free-form flights.

Additionally, both musicians use unusual tunings, and some “preparations” which in this context may mean inserting objects into the neck of guitar or violin to modify the sound of the strings. “Catchy rhythms, colourful timbres, and iridescent microtonalities” are their avowed aim. Whatever pathways have led them to free improvisation, I would guess it’s not the same route taken by Derek Bailey where the house of Webern and his 12-tone theories loomed so large on the highway. Instead, both Farhadian and Santomeri have a healthy concern with melody and with not alienating the listener too much, and I hear echoes of Henry Cowell (as if rescored for the guitar) and even late Frank Zappa in some of these pieces; parts of ‘Foil’, for instance, kept reminding me of Orchestral Favorites or Studio Tan.

And like Cowell, they don’t the deny the possibility of narrative in their tunes; indeed many of the titles refer directly to things you might see in an art gallery, such as ‘Picture Frame’, ‘House of Colors’, ‘Pencil Sketch’ and ‘Pollock’. When they do attempt a bit of roughed-up atonality, we get ‘Richochet’ with its crocodile clips and scraped strings, but neither musician is fully comfortable with the kind of full-blooded abstract roar we might get from early Keith Rowe, and their efforts at “noise music” are a bit awkward and pallid. Even so it’s interesting how here, and elsewhere, the tension between the need for melody and the need for experimentation produces interesting clashes. From 16 May 2016.

One Purple Night

The Sound Projector Radio Show
Friday 2nd September 2016

  1. T’ien Lai, ‘Monotronik’
  2. Kamil Szuszkiewicz, ‘Kuchnia’
    From Robot Czarek, POLAND BÔŁT RECORDS BR K008 CD (2016)
  3. Solaris, ‘Strides’
  4. Quartetski, ‘Imitation Et Inversion #25’
    From Quartetski Does Bartok, CANADA AMBIANCES MAGNÉTIQUES AM 224 CD (2016)
  5. Santomieri-Farhadian Duo, ‘Foil’
    From Red Blue, USA BLACK COPPER EDITIONS blackcopper001 CD (2015)
  6. Iannis Xenakis, excerpt from La Légende d’Eer, GERMANY KARL RECORDS KR024 LP (2016)
  7. Sturqen, ‘Kivi’
    From Cura, UKRAINE KVITNU45 CD (2016)
  8. Howard Stelzer, ‘Flight Path (Dust For B.)
    From The Case Against, POLAND MONOTYPE RECORDS MONO073 CD (2016)
  9. Joane Hétu (with Guido Del Fabbro and Pierre-Yves Martel), ‘Pierre-Yves Del Fabbro’
  10. Émilie Girard-Charest, ‘Altered Grey’ (Composed by Fredrik Gran)
    From Émilie Préfère Le Chant, CANADA AMBIANCES MAGNÉTIQUES AM 223 CD (2016)
  11. Simon Martin, ‘L’Heure Mauve’
    Played by Trio De Guitares Contemporain
    From Hommage À Leduc, Bordua at Riopelle, CANADA QUATOR BOZZINI CQB 1616 CD (2016)
  12. Quartetski, ‘Accompagnement En Accords Brisés #42’
    From Quartetski Does Bartok, op.cit.
  13. Pascal Niggenkemper & Le 7ème Continent, ‘Ideonella Sakaiensis’
    From Talking Trash, PORTUGAL CLEAN FEED RECORDS CF373CD (2016)
  14. Phil Julian & John Macedo, ‘Connate’
    From Bind, UK HIDEOUS REPLICA HR12 CDR (2016)
  15. eRikm, ‘Cirrus’
    From Doubse Hysterie, POLAND MONOTYPE RECORDS MONO076 CD (2016)