Catherine Lamb – shade/gradient LP
I speak of subtle augmentation of tones and even of their equally diminished condition. All these come together into one beautiful intangible whole. Intangible because (there is) no effort at any convergence of meanings. On the contrary the tones make fine divergences and reflect upon a new state of our human existence where the traditional requirement of coherence stands meaningless. In repetition there is not repeating and the emergence of changed nuances make nature’s own consonant/dissonant movement possible. There is so much pain present and at the same time much affirmation. As if in every dying of things upon earth there is new fertility.
– Mani Kaul, from a correspondence with Catherine Lamb
Catherine Lamb’s work is characterized by an insistence on what she calls the “interaction of tone”. Precisely tuned intervals, played slowly at subtle volumes, blend and generate a host of difference and combination tones, phasing, beating and aural illusions. Her ensemble and orchestral compositions have been performed in grand halls and d.i.y. spaces alike, played by underground musicians and institutional ensembles including the BBC orchestra. Yet sometimes ideas must be stated in ways that reflect their most basic, unfettered reality and indeed, shade/gradient contains all of the elements of Lamb’s orchestral and ensemble music in their most intimate, radically distilled form.
Lamb met Mani Kaul by happenstance at CalArts, where she was a student and he a visiting filmmaker. Though best known for his films, Kaul was also a long time student of the great Indian dhrupad musician, ZM Dagar, and their chance encounter would introduce Lamb to the sonic and philosophical concepts of dhrupad music in the Dagar tradition. The score to Lamb’s shade/gradient bears a dedication to Mani Kaul, and the piece’s oceanic sense of time and emphasis on the most subtle shifts in resonance and intonation make the connection to dhrupad concepts clear, while it’s slowly unfolding structure and tuning system also point towards Morton Feldman and her studies with James Tenney. Performed by Lamb herself using only viola, formant oscillators and her own voice, the piece also falls into the lineage of composer performed solo works like Pauline Oliveros’ Horse Sings from Cloud for accordion and voice, or the ARP synthesizer works of Eliane Radigue (who has composed an as-yet unperformed piece for Lamb).