Norway’s Guro Skumsnes Moe and Ole-Henrik Moe describe their new disc as their “first attempt to explore the musical possibilities in rather extreme registers.” It is certainly extreme, but rarely in the conventional loud-and-fast mode. Instead, The Noise Is Rest features more restful extremes than noisy ones.
At various times, the disc sounds like a boiling kettle, an asthmatic grandparent and a punk rock string quartet. It is none of those things of course. Guro performs octobass and Ole-Henrik is on piccoletto-violin.
The former is a supersized string instrument designed to be bowed. The first was built in Paris in or around 1850. There are just seven in existence currently. They come in various sizes (one is 12 ½ feet high) and have just three strings.
“It’s as if the sound of the octobass opens my mind,” writes Guro. “Every time I play it feels like a revelation … It makes me uneasy and open. The sound is not just a sound, it is perceived as a state. A presence of the depth.”
The piccoletto-violin is designed to play high-register frequencies more loudly and clearly than conventional violins. “An ordinary violin can play the same register, but it will lack the supporting resonances in the extreme register, making that register sound pale and weak, compared to the piccoletto-violin,” writes Ole-Henrik. “To me, this sort of violin has the same function in the string-section as the piccolo-flute, (or even, the piccoletto-flute), has in the flute-section.”
The album’s eight pieces feature multiple examples of these high frequencies. It is less abrasive than Ole-Henrik’s description suggests. His performances aren’t exactly a calming influence, but next to Guro’s larger than life contributions, Ole-Henrik comes off as rather understated. Like a whistling wind on a frigid winter night.
Regular readers of this blog will be accustomed to adventurous instrumentation choices. In this case though, the duo has produced something genuinely unique. The album delivers a woolly mix of playfulness and high-strung tension.
Ole-Henrik is a composer and violinist most of the time. He studied in both Oslo and Paris, including a stint with the great Iannis Xenakis.
Guro is best known for her rock outfit MoE and acoustic noise ensemble Sult. She has written for Mexican film director Amat Escalantes’ The Untamed, for the French puppet theatre Plexus Polaire and for Norwegian vocal group Oslo 14.
One additional item from the album’s notes: “To all fellow music-makers: Play the tone E for the environment: To show that we really do care, play this tone, any octave, any length, but preferably as a long drone, that could be faded in, to be played strongly, and of [considerable] length. This tone could start spontaneously, it could start in the middle of a song, or symphony, or it could be played separately. That’s up to you! But play it! Make the audience sing along! Show the world that we care!!!! Now!!!!!!!!”
Spread the word, friends.