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Christian Wolfarth

Souvenirs (LP)

Label: Hiddenbell Records

Format: LP

Genre: Experimental

In stock


** 2021 Stock ** A typical modern drum set consists of a bass drum, a snare drum, hi-hats, a few toms, and a couple of cymbals. When played as a drum set, the characteristics of each sound combine to create what many people recognize as a single instrument. Yet each of the pieces within that instrument has particular qualities that are often different from each other, especially between drums and cymbals. From a player's standpoint, shifting focus from the sonic options available with a drum set to a seemingly more limited range of a single piece of the set brings challenges. However, with Souvenirs, Christian Wolfarth shows us the sonic possibilities that exist, even within such limitations. Although each side of the record focuses on two individual pieces from a standard drum set (drum and cymbal), it's clear that only the instrument quantity is limited. Throughout Side A, 'Souvenir from a drum' features woven rhythms that unfold over time, surprisingly captured in a single take with no overdubs. Here, the possibilities of reduction are pushed beyond expectations, revealing a world that's both percussive and tonal, sounding at times as if many drums, and even electronics, were at play (they aren't).

Culling such expansiveness from an instrument is Wolfarth's life's work, and indeed it's an interesting souvenir he's brought us. On Side B, we get a similar treatment in 'Souvenir from a cymbal', expanded with the addition of a range of metallic frequencies. Over time, these frequencies start to resemble other familiar tones, like the full-ringing of church bells. When Wolfarth was a child, he recognized these bells' ability to "clear the air." On this record, the sounds offer a different kind of clarity, allowing the listener to build their own story within it. The duration, stamina, and technique to this approach, while necessary for making something interesting from limited material, aren't something all percussionists are capable of doing. This kind of focus takes practice and patience; something Wolfarth has developed over time. For the past three years, Wolfarth has been performing with single percussion pieces, like the small children's marching drum and cymbal heard on this record. After so many performances with an instrument, an understanding and relationship forms between it and the player. Familiarity with how to play it, how to work with it to produce certain repeatable sounds, and developing a comfort-level starts to emerge with practice. However, being open to new sonic and technique discoveries with an instrument, no matter how much one knows, is essential. Wolfarth describes this focused playing as "a kind of freedom that creates new room for development."

Although this record came out of a three-year focus on these particular instruments, Wolfarth's interest in magnifying the detail of the objects he works with comes from a more deep-rooted history. He explains:

"When I was a child, I always wanted to become a musician. The instrument was not important. Then, when I was sixteen, a guy came to our house to buy my sister's guitar. He talked about wanting to form a band and that he was looking for a drummer. I quickly volunteered. I then had to buy a drum set, but I had never hit a drum before in my life. That was a strange experience. After I set the drums up, I thought that it would sound like the drums I had heard on records. Instead, it sounded awful. There were many overtones and strange interferences. I really didn't like it, but now we had a band, and eventually, the more we played, everything was fine. Later, I studied jazz and so on, but I still always felt that sense of dissatisfaction with the sound. So, very early on, I started to assemble different kinds of drum sets. And more and more, I got rid of the instruments whose sound I didn't like. In Bern at this time, there was a great concert organization called 'Jazz Now Bern' that introduced me to a lot of new music. I got to hear people from the AACM, the New York downtown scene, the East German, the British, and many other musicians from the Free Jazz scene, which opened my ears and helped me to go my own way." For thirty-five years, Wolfarth has been pursuing this path, which he describes as "to focus, concentrate, and find clarity in my life by getting to the point of things." He's eschewed the use of electronics in his work, focusing purely on the acoustic properties of his instruments in hopes of discovering more new sounds inherent within them. Overall, Souvenirs, and Wolfarth's work, in general, are a testimony to the world of detail that exists when one focuses on a particular instrument, and even pieces of that instrument. And in that detail, we discover that very little is ordinary."-Jon Mueller, March 2020

Cat. number: 0012
Year: 2020
Recorded at Kunstraum Walcheturm, Zürich, July 2019 Vinyl Mastering at Centraldubs Bern, 2020 Graphic Design by Urs Freitag, freitaggrafik.ch Includes an insert with photos & liner notes.

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