Duane Pitre: ED09 for String/Wind Ensemble, Live at Roulette
Quiet Design

In acoustic and electroacoustic compositions scored for solo performers as well as large and small ensembles, Brooklyn-based Duane Pitre primarily works with long tones and deploys alternate tuning schemes with a microtonal focus. Recorded at NYC's Roulette in December 2008, his latest release, ED09, presents a forty-minute, single-movement work arranged for twenty-two players (Pitre on bowed electric guitar and others on violin, viola, cello, contrabass, flute, clarinet, alto and tenor saxophones, bass clarinet, and trombone) that begins as a whisper and gradually swells as more voices join in. Approximately half of the work's score involves the performers executing specific notated pitches as directed by Pitre's conducted hand signs, while the remainder of the score allows the players to make minor decisions that influence the overall pace and texture of the work. What results is slow-shifting harmonic movement—“slow-motion chamber music,” the liner notes call it—that unfolds patiently in a dream-like flow of gently mutating sound.

The collective at times becomes a singular mass that resembles an immense, multi-hued harmonium; at other times, individual instruments move to the fore, with overlapping layers of violins, cellos, and woodwinds ensuring that the work continues without interruption. Subtle changes in dynamics occur regularly, with a trombone-driven surge, for example, intensifying the ensemble's sound at one moment, and the group, as if readying itself for another attack, retreating quietly for a few seconds at another. Throughout the piece, layers of instrument sounds restlessly shift and overlap, and it's this aspect that, on purely listening grounds, proves most captivating. When ED09 begins its descent at about the thirty-nine-minute mark and then fades into silence, one is left feeling, strangely enough, that it's over too soon—a sign that the forty-minute duration Pitre decided upon was wisely determined. More than anything else, it's the work's unity of purpose and multi-hued sound that renders it an engrossing listening experience.

September 2009