These companion pieces have similar orbits as they were not only both composed in Middletown, CT (where Alvin and Jordan lived for a number of years), but are about Middletown, at least from a starting point. Alvin’s piece — a homage to the location of the house in which he recorded “I am sitting in a room” back in 1969 — continues his study into slow-moving glissandi and carefully crafted beating patters by interweaving three string players within a minor third (voiced by two vibraphonists). The result is entrancing, almost psychedelic, and opens space where one didn’t expect. Like much of his previous work, it is conceptual and process-based; once the wheels get turning they go on and on, giving the listener time to approach the piece, sit with it, and then move back inward.
On the other hand, Dykstra’s piece “32 Middle Tones” (a pun on his Middletown street address and the harmonic microtonality utilized in the composition) is a very textural work. His piece asks the cellist to sustain pitches for extended durations — at times quietly singing in close proximity to the stopped pitch coming from the cello — while the rest of the ensemble (violin, viola, and 2 percussion) voice a sequence of chords separated by notated silences. The cello voice is sometimes alone, but never for too long as it finds itself supported from both the top and bottom in a harmonic embrace. This supportive structure involves a percussion section which colors the seemingly simple chords (major 6th, inverted minor 7th, inverted minor 2nd, etc.) with a non-traditional toolkit of bowed singing bowls, stone sheets, harmonicas, and even leaves.
This is music that gently gives the listener a sense of predictability but always in an unexpected (and subtly indeterminate) shade. Speaking of shade, the album’s cover photo was taken in 2019 in Alvin’s backyard in Middletown. Alvin and Jordan sit with similar demeanors in front of his favorite tree — a crooked aspen which early on looked to be doomed — but which he would often saunter over to spend time with, giving it whispers of blessings and encouraging words. The world was blessed with Alvin’s presence and hopefully this album will whisper to you and yours.