Lea Bertucci’s All That Is Solid Melts Into Air
I lay awake at night listening to the scratchy strings of a post-post-modernist whose youth finds the profound in things that occupy physical space, and I’m worried that if I fall asleep then gremlins will come pouring out from beneath the bed. New York based talent Lea Bertucci released All That Is Solid Melts Into Air with the NNA Tapes label as a cassette and digital download, in March. The album offers the same kind of violent minimalist suspense that used to be typical of horror films in the Twentieth Century, but her thesis behind the music reflects the academic thinking of a contemporary artist.
Bertucci acts as composer for this record — she is also called an interdisciplinary artist — allowing for the string musicians featured here to offer their tonal aptitude. The underlying thought of the two pieces running at 59 minutes is, basically, to explore every dynamic of the vibrating string.
As a composer, she is working within numerous established modern music practices of the Twentieth Century, establishing her own virtuosity for composition techniques in the field of new music. The score is written in two pieces, each piece with its own movements. The first piece, “Cephied Variations” is written for viola, cello, plus magnetic tape, and the second, “Double Bass Crossfade” calls for dual double bass, a large room, and amplification.
On the first, Bertucci performs magnetic tape into a concréte collage overtone, alongside Leila Bordreuil on viola, and Jeanann Dara on cello. String techniques are dynamically organized to demonstrate the quality of each effect. Because this manner of composition drones on, it conveys the aforementioned suspense easily associated with fear and horror. It is benign and meant chiefly to study sound rather than elicit an emotional response, but if you can really get objective, then you’ll watch your feelings being drawn out. I suppose, you can observe the affect of each effect.
On the second, James Ilgenfritz and Sean Ali, both on double bass, fill out a 50,000 square foot room in Maspeth, NY called The Knockdown Center. The room was carefully mapped out with ten channels of amplified audio, with the musicians wirelessly transmitting their instruments’ signals to those ten channels. They gradually evolve from near-silent, upper-register string screeches into their fundamental bass frequencies, while moving across the room from polar opposite corners. Their peak volume is reached in the rumbling middle of the room. Because the speakers are picking up and regenerating the source bass instruments, subtle feedback is driven and controlled, further expanding the space of the room.
Lea Bertucci is by training predominantly a photographer, having earned her Bachelors as such from Bard College. Less and less an issue in today’s art world, this just means she knows how to visualize what she can hear, and vice versa, thus using the highly visual techniques of modern composition. She follows in the footsteps of Ligeti and Crumb, further establishing the practice of new music in the Millennial generation, with all of its high-definition advantages.