(Glacial Erratic)

While most everybody is aware of Joe Morris’ personality and collaborative researching, Do Yeon Kim’s name may not sound familiar. She is a young virtuoso of the gayageum: a stringed instrument to be played in a sitting position, its timbral character akin to that of guzheng, komungo and others less diffused wooden machines from Asia. As the first gayageum player to be admitted at New England Conservatory, Kim became active in contemporary improvisation under the auspices of Hankus Netsky, Anthony Coleman and Morris himself.

The five tracks of Macrocosm encompass a whole gamut of techniques, colors and velocities. In general, we hear the unadulterated instrumental voices (Morris plays a hollow-body guitar), occasionally with a modicum of preparation when additional rattling is needed. From the beginning one perceives the musicians’ will to create improvisational breaks with unrestrained animation; within a few minutes, the duo is already flying across networks of plucked pitches, glistening partials and clustery cascades without looking back.

Intelligence, in such cases, is revealed through an innate ability to recognize the right moment to shift gears, either for increased intensity (and, if necessary, enthusiastic violence: there’s also a bit of nice knock-and-bang here and there) or towards quieter realms. Morris and Kim appear to be in complete control of this particular faculty; which, in turn, reveals that they had probably performed together a number of times before entering the studio. They reciprocally “feel” the partner with eyes closed; the dialogue is never reduced to mere parallel overtalking, in spite of some hyperactive sections. For a better comprehension, just think in “dynamically stochastic” terms, or about the intersecting trajectories inside a mass of microorganisms.

Any serious practitioner of a stringed instrument will soon realize that Morris and Kim entered states of genuine transcendence as they were inhabiting the resonances produced by their gestures. The positioning of the microphones is essential in capturing the vibrational core of the matter; in that regard, home listeners will certainly relish the fruits of a brilliant engineering job as silent witnesses to the conversation.