Celebrating its one hundredth release, Black Truffle is honoured to present a major archival discovery: a stunning document of the only performance by the trio of Tony Conrad, Arnold Dreyblatt and Jim O’Rourke. Across a two-night programme organised by David Weinstein at legendary New York experimental venue Tonic in January 2001, Conrad, Dreyblatt and O’Rourke presented individual projects before performing a collaborative set each night, the first with members of Dreyblatt’s ensemble and the second the trio heard here. As Dreyblatt points out in the wonderfully informative and reflective liner notes written for this release, this was a collaboration across generations, reflecting the profound impact of Conrad’s pioneering minimalism on Dreyblatt and O’Rourke. Both Dreyblatt and O’Rourke came to this collaboration armed with a deep appreciation of Conrad’s music and the just intonation principles at its core, Dreyblatt having first encountered the incredible power of Conrad’s precisely tuned violin chords during his tenure as an archivist for La Monte Young in 1975, while O’Rourke had performed with Conrad in various settings since the mid-1990s (as well as admiring, reissuing, and performing Dreyblatt's music).
The flyer for the concert promised ‘massive, ecstatic, pulsating overtones’, and the trio certainly delivered. From the moment this keening stream of bowed strings begins, it is clear, as Dreyblatt writes, that we are in ‘Tony’s sonic universe’, as massively amplified, slowly shifting combinations of precisely chosen pitches fill the room with complex beating patterns and ghostly difference tones. For more than twenty-five minutes, the music operates at a level of intensity comparable to classic recordings such as Conrad’s Four Violins, until the texture thins out slightly in the performance’s final quarter, allowing for the listener’s first recognition of the individual voices that make up this enormous, overwhelming harmonic edifice. The constant stream of bowed tones is broken by a beautifully rich pizzicato from Conrad on monochord, the sliding low tones and metallic shimmer of the other strings taking the set's final moments on an unexpected detour into spacious pastoral psychedelia.
Though produced by three individuals known for their own distinctive bodies of the work, this is egoless music, the perfect expression of Conrad's desire 'to move away from composing to listening', to 'working "on" the sound from "inside" the sound'. Historically important and overwhelming in sonic impact, this release also serves as a moving tribute to Tony Conrad from two musicians profoundly marked by the example set by his art and life.