As you plumb the depths of this platform, a picture of my tastes should begin to unfold. Though they’re broad, stretching across time, culture, and genre, my root is with the avant-garde. Those who have spent time in this wonderful world are bound to have encountered Arnold Dreyblatt. He is among the brightest lights of Minimalism’s second wave, and a has been a steady contributor to the advancement of music since the late 70’s.
Arnold Dreyblatt – Sound of One String (1998)
I discovered Dreyblatt in 1998. I was loyally working my way through Table of The Elements’ incredible (and at the time, relatively small) catalog, which was a beacon for my rapidly expanding explorations of avant-garde music. His first release on the label Sound of One String was a collection of archival recordings from the late 70’s and early 80’s. I instantly fell in love. Something about his approach and touch resonated through every inch of me. It was a music which sculpted my tasted in real time, and laid a foundation for much of was yet to come.
Dreyblatt studied with Pauline Oliveros, La Monte Young, and Alvin Lucier, which in hindsight might explain why his work rapidly found a place so close to my heart, but at the time I discovered him I was only beginning to explore Young’s work, which Dreyblatt’s doesn’t particularity resemble, and was yet to discover the other two. He also collaborated with Ellen Fullman early in both their careers, dispelling any doubts about the quality of the company he keeps.
Ellen Fullman & Arnold Dreyblatt
Dreyblatt moved to Germany in the mid 80’s, and despite remaining very active, became a fairly obscure artist in America. During the late 90’s, the two primary documents of his output, 1982’s Nodal Excitation, and 1986’s Propellers In Love, where legendary for those who were aware of them, and next to impossible to find. It took me years to track down copies. Nodal Excitation was reissued last year by Drag City, so it’s back in circulation, but I doubt Propellers is any easier to find than when I was hunting for it. Fortunately, while I dug in the bins, Table, and a few other labels, issued a trickle of new and archival recordings to tide me over.
Arnold Dreyblatt, The Orchestra Of Excited Strings – Nodal Excitation (1982)
Dreyblatt’s work displays a number of the more exciting characteristics threading through the body of Minimalist music – the constraint of notes and harmonic relationships, with the utilization of percussive repetition. Where he differs is through his approach to resonance and chance. There is a humanity, and presence of touch, which is often less apparent in other composers. The structure of Dreyblatt’s work is largely built around, and sometimes limited to, the beating of a bass strings with a bow. Depending on the variable velocity of impact, return of the string and its reflection against the bow, the interval between notes inevitably fluctuates. Time slips. Because the bass was not designed to be attacked in this way, it also offers a secondary dynamic into the mix. Sympathetic resonances, caused by unstruck but vibrating strings, are almost always present in Dreyblatt pieces. At times they bring beautiful swells of harmony, and at others raw dissonances. Despite an initial elusion to the mechanical, these elements set him apart, lace his work with humanity, prove how much can be achieved with very little, and raise him to the top of the pile. It is hard for me to explain how wonderful I find his music. His albums are rare treasures in my collection.
Arnold Dreyblatt And The Orchestra Of Excited Strings - Propellers In Love (1986)
For anyone unfamiliar with Dreyblatt, I cannot encourage you enough to seek out his work. For those who are, I recently came across these two archival films which he uploaded, and wanted to find a way to pass them along. The first is an incredible performance recorded for Hungarian TV in 1985. The second is a film called A String When Sounded (Makes Many Sounds at Once), which was made by Edye Weissler in 1982 about Dreyblatt. It features a recording from a concert that same year. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have, and that I’ve done a little to bring a great composer to the front of your mind.
Arnold Dreyblatt & The Orchestra of Excited Strings, Petöfi Csarnok, Budapest, October, 1985
A String When Sounded (Makes Many Sounds at Once) – Edye Weissler, 1982