Music eats literature and literature dines on music, and Mivos Quartet’s Garden of Diverging Paths is an album of beautiful cannibalism. As a theme, the intersection of words and sounds is a path crowded with footprints, but what elevates this effort is genuinely exceptional programming and the full…digestion…of the scores on the part of the quartet.
Currently a doctoral candidate at Columbia University, Taylor Brook turns to the 1941 short story “El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan” by Jorge Luis Borges as the philosophical framework for his piece of the same title. At its heart is the notion of multiple realities, and here Brook endeavors to take traditions like free improvisation, Gagaku, and central African musics down alternate evolutions.
Scordatura tuning pulls these six songs into less obvious (but still) tonal territory, but this listener, at least, has the experience of hearing not so much new trajectories of known idioms than something more akin to the sci-fi trope of a small number of survivors recreating civilization – in this case burrowing inside their memories to reclaim the songs of a dead planet. The billowing, microtonally-constructed chords and ticklish cycling of movement three, “Strumming” pokes out as a highlight both for the poetic delivery by Mivos, and the elegant orchestration by Brook.
A thing is a hole in a thing it is not is the title of Andrew Greenwald’s gripping entry on the album – and a bit of inverting logic that will turn one’s brain to cottage cheese if contemplated for too long. A piece of exacting complexity for both the left and right hands, order and balance is what leaps into the ears, and the quartet delivers an admirable transmission of the composer’s labyrinth of bow percussion and harmonic mini-interludes.
The most exquisite element of Wet Ink co-director Kate Soper’s Nadja is her fluid entwining of the voice and strings. A heady meditation on feminine love and lust, Soper as soprano often merges timbres with the instrumentalists here, pitch-bending and pitch-leaping with agility and finesse. The texts of Tennyson, Ovid, and Breton shiver with desire as bleary textures buoy sometimes tone-row-resembling vocal melodies…or all five coalesce to embolden the text…or all five erupt in erotic hunger. It is a stand-out work, but such a thing does not exist on a tracklist this deep.
- Doyle Armbrust