Anthony Burr/Skuli Sverrisson: A Thousand Incidents Arise
The Worker's Institute

The beautiful unfurling of organic acoustic sounds on A Thousand Incidents Arise testifies to the simpatico relationship Anthony Burr and Skuli Sverrisson have developed after a decade of collaborating. The two come from radically different backgrounds—originally hailing from Reykjavik, Iceland, Sverrisson is now regarded as one of the Lower East Side's premiere bass players while Burr (originally from Melbourne, Australia) is considered one of the world's foremost bass clarinetists in the contemporary classical milieu—yet demonstrate a unity of purpose in the 48-minute album's four pieces. It's not their first release, however; Desist, a more austere recording of stark minimal electronics was issued on Fire Inc./ Staalplaat in 1999, and the duo subsequently delved even further into computer music before acoustic elements began to re-appear.

The wholly acoustic A Thousand Incidents Arise evidences a preoccupation with stasis and minute timbral shifts. Yet while a static quality does permeate the pieces, the degree of development and dynamic contrast that emerges declassifies the material as drones proper. The outer settings include traces of conventional compositional elements, while the inner two are more meditative. Still, even characterizing them in this manner is distorting, as all four intermittently gravitate between drones and conventional song structures.

With peaceful organ tones joined by gentle guitar strums and soft clarinet playing, “We Shall Be Sure of Not Going Astray” initiates the album in lovely manner. The piece develops at a natural pace, with stately clusters of organ and clarinet tones booming like muffled foghorns as the guitar navigates gentle paths. In “Change is Far More Radical than We Are at First Inclined to Believe,” overlapping layers of bass clarinet and bowed tones emerge and disappear, the effect meditative, the music's rhythms less metronomic than suggestive of breathing. “The Divine Principle as a Sphere Turning on Itself” is even dreamier, with surging timbres of organ splashes offset by the low croak of the bass clarinet; gradually, the organ recedes, laying bare a skeletal armature of clarinet and bowed string tones. Collectively, the music exudes a strong transcendental flavour (song titles alone suggest as much), not to mention a rather hymnal quality that thankfully never turns precious.

December 2005