Lake of Light: Compositions for AquaSonics - William Parker
Label: Gotta Let It Out
Catalog #: GLIO19CD
Release Date: May, 2018
The staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House continue to teach a music class at the University of Tennessee titled, The Golden Age of Non-Idiomatic Improvisation, in which we explore the motivations, philosophical opinions and sources of courage for creating in unconventional directions, specifically as applied to creative music. We also bring unusual instruments to class so that the students can experience first-hand the generation of creative music. In past offerings of the course, we have brought a theremin, various daxophones (of Hans Reichel) and several otamatones.
For the planned offering of the course for fall semester, 2018, we decided to introduce a waterphone, an instrument that we had first encountered in Gravikords, Whirlies & Pyrophones (Experimental Musical Instruments), a book & cd set released by ellipsis arts in 1996. As we looked around for examples of waterphone releases, we discovered that no lesser jazz master than William Parker had a recent waterphone album! Sure that we had hit the jackpot, we ordered a copy immediately.
In the case of the daxophone or the theremin, any student can make a variety of unusual noises, but it is the rare student with an exceptional talent for music that can coax a melody out of these idiophones in their first encounter with one. It is therefore instructive to play videos for the students in which the instruments are played by a master, for example, Reichel in the case of the daxophone or Clara Rockmore in the case of the theremin. In these cases, music is teased from the instrument that bears only a faint resemblance to grunts and grindings, which we generate in the classroom. We thought William Parker might play a similar role with the waterphone.
We discovered upon listening to Lake of Light, that this experience is not exactly the case for the waterphone. On this disc, Parker is joined by three other musicians, also performing on waterphones: Anne Humanfeld, Leonid Galaganov & Jeff Schlanger. The sounds that we hear emanating from this quartet are not all that different from the sounds that we are able to generate on our own waterphone while sitting in the office at the university. There are the unique reverberations generated by drawing a bow across the tines and there are percussive resonances where the waterphone has been struck by rubber mallets or, in some cases, what sounds like wooden drumsticks. The vibrations are damped by the irregular movement of water in the bowl of the instrument. At times the sloshing of water is heard, when the orientation of the instrument abruptly changes.
Of course there are differences between the waterphone on Lake of Light and merely tinkering with the instrument. The musicians have a far greater degree of control over the instrument and they have the patience to allow the compositions to unfold. Moreover, the cd presents the pieces as music, which is sustained in tracks ranging from 4 to over 16 minutes. There is a concerted effort to allow themes to evolve and dissociate. Perhaps, in the class, we can use the waterphone to illustrate the point that the manner of presentation deeply influences perception of the piece. In any case, based on the reactions of the few students who have stopped by this summer to take a turn with the instrument and to listen to Parker perform on it, the experiment should prove a hit with students this fall.