If the end of summer signals a return to serious music, then this performance of Alex Mincek’s new work Images of Duration (In homage to Ellsworth Kelly) is well-timed. The percussion and piano quartet Yarn/Wire – for whom the piece was written – delivers a performance very much up to this serious task.
The work is composed for two pianos tuned one-quarter tone apart (441 and 428 hertz) and for an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink percussion section that features gongs, air canisters, waterphone, baby monitor, white-noise machine, drums, vibraphone, marimba and chimes.
If that sounds like the makings of an impressive racket, you’re not wrong. Much of the 57-minute album has two volume settings: growling pianos so quiet they virtually disappear into whatever ambient sound you’re surrounded by and banging (often surprising) percussion seemingly designed to put you on edge.
This passage from the album’s notes explains: “Mincek is interested in how perception changes over time, and the sheer scale of Images of Duration allows for listeners to discover different modes of listening for themselves.
“The music traverses movements that range from ‘Oblique’s’ piano rumble and ebow drones through the sparkling detuned piano passages of ‘Vermillion [Becomes Cobalt]’ to violent piano glissandi of ‘Diagonal,’ all punctuated by massive percussion hits throughout.”
That kind of range demands an attentive listen, if only to keep from falling off your chair whenever something loud gets smashed.
Kelly was a New York painter, sculptor and printmaker associated with a number of avant-garde movements. He began producing abstract work in the 1949. Two years later he was celebrating his first solo exhibition at the Galerie Arnaud in Paris. His large sculptures can be found in major cities around the world.
Befitting an artist known for producing work on a grand scale, Images of Duration is the longest composition Mincek has produced. It was three years in the making.
Yarn/Wire features pianists Laura Barger and Ning Yu and percussionists Ian Antonio and Russell Greenberg.