Tristan Perich: Parallels
Physical Editions

Tristan Perich's Parallels is the first in an ambitious series of four related compositions, with this inaugural chapter scheduled to be followed in May, August, and September by the others. Grouped under the title Compositions and issued on Perich's own label Physical Editions, each work is scored for acoustic instruments and 1-bit electronics: Parallels for tuned triangles, hi-hats, and 4-channel 1-bit electronics; Telescope for two bass clarinets, two baritone saxophones, and 4-channel 1-bit electronics; Dual Synthesis for harpsichord and 4-channel 1-bit electronics; and Active Field for ten violins and 10-channel 1-bit electronics. The project is being presented elaborately, as each chapter in the Compositions series complements its CD package with a poster-sized print of the score. And later this year, a special Artist Edition (100 per release) will make available a custom-made player for each composition along with a print of the score.

The recipient of numerous awards (in 2009, for example, Austria's Prix Ars Electronica awarded him the Award of Distinction for Active Field), Perich studied math, music, and computer science at Columbia University and earned a Master's degree in art, music, and electronics at the Tisch School of the Arts, NYU. Our most recent encounter with his music occurred last year with the New Amsterdam Records release of Vicky Chow's mesmerizing Surface Image, a Perich piece scored for solo piano and 40-channel 1-bit electronics (the album also nabbed the number six spot on textura's year-end list).

There are similarities but also key differences between Chow's recording and this latest one performed (and commissioned) by the Meehan/Perkins Duo, founded by percussionists Todd Meehan and Doug Perkins in 2006. While both pieces barrel forth with unstoppable momentum and velocity, there are greater contrasts between the piano and the electronics on Surface Image than there are between the percussion instruments and electronics on Parallels. The triangles and hi-hats played by Meehan and Perkins tend to merge with the glistening 1-bit tones of Perich's custom-designed electronics, resulting in a mass that shimmers without pause for a full forty-six minutes. The music also draws a connecting line between Perich and Philip Glass for two reasons: common to Parallels and Glass's music is a powerful rhythmic propulsion, and the rapid patterns that animate Perich's composition do so with an organ-like gleam that calls to mind early Glass. Parallels isn't static, by the way: subtle shifts occur throughout, as well as a more dramatic one that occurs near the halfway mark, and splashes of hi-hats appear alongside a jittery (eventually stuttering) flow of triangles and electronics.

In truth, while Parallels is certainly an engaging enough piece on its own, it's probably best heard in the context of the complete Compositions series. Not only would one benefit from experiencing the contrasts of sonorities within the four parts, one would also witness the differences in mood that are purportedly present as well. Whereas Dual Synthesis and Parallels are characterized as effervescent in the press-related material, Telescope is described as having a “nocturnal ebb and flow” and Active Field a “stately, pastoral quality.”

May 2015