Clara de Asís & Mara Winter

Wednesday 21 October 2020

Another product of this year’s lockdown and enforced isolation is the first release on a new label based in Basel, named Discreet Editions. Rise, follow is an hour-long composition by Mara Winter for two bass Renaissance flutes, recorded in April this year. The material of the piece is very austere, yet Winter and Johanna Bartz play with the type of concentration that keeps the sound constantly alive to the discovery of new details. The two alternate in overlapping, long-held tones, taking a long time to feel any need to add a second pitch. The music gradually opens out into a widening range of consonant harmonies, in a similar manner to a La Monte Young piece. The difference here is in the way Winter and Bartz happen upon harmonics and sonorites inside the resonant recording space and allow them to develop, feeling out the sound with small adjustments in their articulation and breath. Subtle variations in timbre and overtones become the substance of the music. The recording venue is the 500-year-old Kartäuserkirche in Basel, which comes across here as a cavernous space which is steadily filled by Winter’s elemental compositional framework. The two recorders sound huge and their combined tones with the church’s resonance create a deep, oversaturated sound from humble resources.

Rise, follow was recorded by Clara de Asís. Both she and Winter recorded another album in the same church, Repetition of the same dream, released on Another Timbre. Here, Winter plays flute, joined by Asís on percussion and electronics. Again, they both take full advantage of the church’s acoustics, making it a third player in their quarantine ensemble. It’s particularly clear in the first two collaborations: in one, Winter and de Asís use gentle blowing and rolling sounds that approach the softest, whitest noise they can make, coloured by their gestures and natural resonance. In the other, flute and bowed percussion work together to elaborate on the edges of pure tones. After a brief solo by each of them, the final piece is a solo work credited to de Asís, focusing on Winter’s flute. A passage through sounds like a companion piece to Rise, follow, with the flute’s notes again slow, but here separated. The steady alternation of repeated and alternating pitches here sounds more like an act of discipline than of exploration; Winter plays with a steady determination that gives the piece a reductive force, both opening out and narrowing down. The listener has to work harder too, and gets repeatedly nudged to seek out shape and direction amidst all the reverberation.