Michael Byron's Fabric for String Noise, Parts 1 and 2 (2018), composed for New York’s notable violin duo String Noise, is wildly virtuosic music that is unlike just about anything else ever written for two violins. This two-movement work, a tremendous (and relentless) river of complex lines, may be said to resemble a sort of universal folk music of madly driven ecstasy, a sonic canvas wherein intense continuous activity shares space with an overarching sense of motionlessness.
The composer characterizes Fabric for String Noise as a “sound object” that is “tangible, compact, and marked by extreme polyrhythmic complexity and intricate contrapuntal textures,” noting that it utilizes “only the higher registers of the violin, sharpening the music’s edge and crystalizing the perceptual object.”
Dragon Rite (1973) is a haunting, slowly unfolding low-frequency texture for four double basses, occasionally utilizing quarter-tones and quiet harmonics that ever-so-slightly poke out of its rich mass. It was recorded for this album via overdubs by Los Angeles bassist James Bergman. Dedicated to poet Philip Lamantia, Dragon Rite seems to continuously change the listener’s perspective while at the same time remaining unchanged.
Taken as a whole, this album offers an interesting overview of a 45-year span of Byron’s work. Throughout that time, he has shown a fascination with drawing together and/or placing side by side seemingly at-odds minimalist and maximalist techniques, as well as sound worlds of immersive beauty and wild virtuosic abandon.
“String Noise is the name of the ‘Classical, avant-punk violin duo’ (as per their website) Conrad Harris and Pauline Kim Harris, and Fabric is one of the newest of over 50 works written for them. They throw off its tightly woven micro-polyphony and polyrhythmic intricacies with jaw-dropping virtuosity, all the more remarkably since the music sticks to the very highest register of the instruments. Running for 21 minutes, this is taxing for both players and listeners, yet compels attention. Even better is Dragon Rite, operating at the other extreme of the string family’s range and adding quarter-tones to the mix.” —Gramophone
“Fabric for String Noise…is a demanding two-movement composition, with lines that twist around each other in a rigorously sustained upper register, pricking the ears like sharp thorns on a vine. It’s bracing and hypnotic all at once.” —Steve Dollar, National Sawdust Log