The timbral pairing of a quarter-tone bass flute and a double bass, as respectively played by Rebecca Lane and Jon Heilbron, encapsulates the entire investigational ethos of Muto Infinitas. Catherine Lamb crafted this unmetered score between 2016 and 2018; Lane refers to it as a work in progress, given the interpretive possibilities provided within the compositional framework. This recording was made after five years of digging through the subtleties of the piece, at first carried out by Lane along with bassist Mike Majkowski, and later with Heilbron.
What Lane says in an interview on Another Timbre’s website (in reference to Lamb’s composition “Frame”, featuring the same instrument) is revealing. Quoting her words, “I realized that you could actually focus your musical imagination on acoustic perception, on the inner nature of tonal relationships”. It’s in this sphere that listeners, and not just the performer, must seek their own position inside Muto Infinitas. After several attempts, one realizes that the ongoing contiguity of narrow intervals, in turn generating microtonal clusters, implicitly preludes to a “melodic birth”. As the sounds evolve, we move from the realm of mere frequency beating to a dimension defined by unhurried linear designs by the flute ‐ which retains its “rational intonation” peculiarities throughout ‐ over the more static foundation built by Heilbron’s bowed drones.
The biggest mistake one can make is to trust low volume, in the name of a somewhat expectable lowercase feel. Thus I had initially labeled the material as rather dull, without ifs and buts. The vibrational substance was concealed, unwilling to manifest itself. By acknowledging my wrong approach and turning the knob toward 10 o’clock, I became able to detect the tenuous congenital wavering of the conflicting partials, the micro-distortions, the melodic embryos starting to drift across the room. All of the above ineluctably flows into slow sequences of tones accompanying our consciousness with Feldman-esque restraint. The “long introduction” on which Lamb focuses, mentioned by Lane in the aforesaid interview, appears quite logical when the record’s over.
In essence, studying this music to gradually comprehend its mechanics may also be regarded as a work in progress. The emotional response caused in this reviewer by other recent releases from this label (Emmanuel Holterbach’s Ricercar Nell’Ombra comes to mind) was not achieved in this circumstance. But the exploratory commitment of both composer and performers is still exemplary.