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Angharad Davies & Tisha Mukarji, "Ffansïon | Fancies"

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cover image Angharad Davies and Tisha Mukarji’s contribution to Another Timbre’s “Violin+1” series takes the already blurry distinction between composed and improvised music and blurs it beyond meaning. As odd a title as Ffansïon | Fancies is, it encapsulates the process of investigation and refinement evident everywhere in Davies and Mukarji’s sympathetic playing. “Fancy” here connotes the formation of images, synthetic activity, and the work of the imagination—a de- and re-construction of both the piano and the violin that produces a pseudo-Cubist view of both instruments. Exploded and rearranged, they slip in and out of familiar configurations, darting constantly between energy and form.

Another Timbre

Though it was recorded over the course of two days at St. Catherine’s Church in London, Ffansïon | Fancies was meant to be a one-day engagement. That extra time meant Davies and Mukarji, who hadn’t played together in three years, could work with and develop ideas they would have otherwise had to leave in a rawer state the day before. Davies claims this is the first time either of them had operated in that fashion, but the results don’t show it. These seven pieces, despite their seemingly random and unplanned structures, sing with preternatural harmony. Not harmony in the sense of chords and tones, but in the sense of congruity, texture, and space. Using extended techniques, they push their sound well beyond that of a duo’s, sublimating steel strings and horsehair into vaporous colors and anxious rhythms that might typically require four or five musicians to generate.

Nevertheless, the music always sounds tight and controlled, almost thematic. When Mukarji dives into the piano’s low end on “Ffansi | Fancy IV,” Davies lets up on her bow and finds a way to match the piece’s new pace with a slower cadence and surprising contrasts, like rubbing on the strings in such a way that the violin becomes a percussion instrument, a stringed head to be played with brushes. At some point, Davies almost makes it sound like a flute. That kind of vertical movement keeps these pieces in a constant state of tension, even as the tempos slow and freeze, and that tension is replicated in other directions as well: between silence and fullness, melody and toneless noise, patterns and undifferentiated pulses. Davies and Mukarji’s minds and ears must always be active and sensitive. Their music, however, glides between lethargic ambience and dynamic, hard-edged motion.

Which is yet another sign of the subterfuge running through their work. There’s an element of deception in Ffansïon | Fancies, and maybe in the name of the “Violin+1” series too. Seen and heard live, some of that illusion could fall apart, but on record at least, Davies and Mukarji draw circles around themselves so that they can hide within them. The music they make as independent improvisers fuses almost from the beginning, at which point their sound transforms into an image of their performance. It is impossible to see the image and the manner in which it was painted at the same time, yet the album unfurls in sequence, just like all music must. It’s a remarkable effect, like seeing and hearing in four dimensions. As with the Cubists, the specifics are multifaceted, but the overall impression is rooted in the limitation and freedom of the present.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 09 October 2016 18:41  


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