When: Wed., April 5, 9 p.m. 2017
A solo show by Arnold Dreyblatt is a relatively rare occurrence. Most of the time, his music calls for a larger ensemble with him and his bass at the center. Most of the time, that group is the Orchestra of Excited Strings, an ever-changing band of assorted string instruments and percussion, but sometimes he plays with other groups. His 2012 collaboration with Megafaun, Appalachian Excitation, was a particularly memorable change of pace, imbuing his minimalist practice with a bit of the trio's lilting Southern rock.
Dreyblatt's music is essentially an exploration of the overtone series, the fundamental mathematical underpinnings of all pitched sound. When you pluck a string or blow into a pipe, you not only get a sound at the basic frequency of the string, but you also get bits of the pitches that are multiples of that fundamental pitch, which are called overtones. You can't always hear the overtones directly, but their relative volume determines the difference in sound between, say, a violin, a clarinet, and a piano. The properties of the overtone series have guided Western music for millennia. What Dreyblatt did was devise a different way of getting to those overtones.
At some point in the late seventies, he discovered that if he strung his bass with piano strings and smacked them sharply with his bow at carefully chosen places, he could pull out all kinds of wild overtones. After the initial ping of bow hitting the wire, the ghostly ring of a much higher pitch floats up, an unruly penumbra that sits halfway between the sound of throat singing and a mouth harp. The approach is percussive and aggressive, and it felt right at home in the flexible sonic environment of the early-eighties New York City avant-garde. In the Orchestra of Excited Strings, Dreyblatt combined rock music and minimalism in a slightly more acoustic version of what Glenn Branca and Rhys Chatham were already doing with their guitar orchestras.
Solo, Dreyblatt has been content to let the overtones do most of the talking, teasing out gossamer landscapes and then gamboling through them. On this show, he'll alternate between his trademarked rhythmic smacking and bowed drone. And, in an intriguing twist, he'll present a relatively recent work based on recordings from an MRI machine played like an instrument. It's unclear what to expect from a stringless Dreyblatt piece, but chances are it will be equally engulfing. With Joe Westerlund and Tylake. —Dan Ruccia
Price: $12 - $15