Cordless Shrubber

Gary Rouzer
Studies and Observations of Domestic Shrubbery
USA EH? RECORDS eh81 CD-R (2015)

Gary Rouzer is a US improvising musician with an interest in mechanical processing and the different means of interlinking and layering his chosen materials. He is an example of an utterly open-minded classical musician who has a passion for exploring the sonic potential of not just his own familiar items of classical instrumentation, but the musical possibilities and unfamiliarity inherent in electro-acoustic improvisation. He approaches this with not inconsiderable amounts of rigour, as evidenced within his amptext blog.

On the strangely titled Studies and Observation of Domestic Shrubbery, Rouzer utilises clarinet, cello and cardboard on his recordings and acquits himself well. I’m fascinated by the sounds produced when objects are rubbed together, scraped, struck and allowed to influence musical instruments and so on and admirably, it seems Rouzer considers the results of these processes as equal to those of his considerable technique on his instruments. His enthusiasm for the possibilities afforded by utilization of humble pieces of cardboard is fascinating. I suspect for him, improvisation is less a method of banal discovery – letting things present themselves to him like so many “experimental” musicians – but more a way of figuring things out. Particularly enjoyable moments for me are numerous; the sparse interjections of field recordings at the beginning of the third piece ‘Giant Hogweed’ and the density, relentlessness and pace of opener ‘Sky Saw’, for example.

I’m also keen to acquire a new release Rouzer has out with viola player Paolo Valladoid on Confront, whereupon they performed inside a tunnel open to the public in a Virginian nature trail. Performances of this site-specific type often throw up interesting accidentals due to the presence of passersby who become members of a “non-audience” of sorts. Ute Wassermann has footage of herself doing something similar to great effect. You can view that here.

I love the package this music comes in – a mess of monochromatic moss and pawprints on the front of this foldover card sleeve; a calligraphic tree design on the rear, all done by Eh? label head Bryan Day. Altogether then, a beautiful, beautiful thing.