Longleash Presents Debut Album Passage on New Focus Recordings
With their debut album Passage (New Focus Recordings, 2017), the members of the string trio Longleash have cemented their reputation as a traditional ensemble with a contemporary voice. By focusing on recent repertoire, Pala Garcia (violin), John Popham(cello), and Renate Rohlfing (piano), are out to change the string trio’s musical world.
The five pieces that Longleash presents on Passage use no prepared piano or computer software. This acoustic-only setup provides an excellent context for the otherwise-limitless nature of the works they present. Each of the five featured composers focuses on exploring a different facet of music in their contributions, and each asks fundamental questions of the ensemble: “When does a tone begin?” “What is music and not noise?” “What kinds of sounds are possible, and how can they be made?” Questions like these define any repertoire that breaks with tradition.
The two movements of Christopher Trapani‘s Passing Through, Staying Put reflect the composer’s interests in Turkish music and in motion and stasis as musical devices. Both movements eschew any kind of steady pulse, but focus on the interplay between the voices. “Passing Through” has much more motion, which it achieves through string glissandi that pass between the violin and the cello. The piano plays mostly accompaniment, though occasionally comes to the front. The speed of the short glissandi followed by fast pizzicato passages creates tension that propels the music forward. Trapani’s experience with Turkish and Ottoman music (he studied in Istanbul on Fulbright scholarship) becomes even more obvious in “Staying Put.” Some of the string passages are written to imitate Middle Eastern plucked string instruments. Because this movement explores musical stasis, the composer uses repeated tones to create tension without musical motion. The glissandi in “Staying Put” are much longer and have more staggered entrances, creating more exposed textures. The repeated tones (or intervals, in the case of the piano) function like drones while minimizing some of the natural decay in the sound.