"Out of Our Hands" brings together Alvin Lucier and Jordan Dykstra who, through the hands of Ordinary Affects, have created debut recordings of two new compositions.
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.
Alvin Lucier (1931-2021) was an American composer, considered a pioneer in contemporary music composition and performance, particularly of live electronic music (with the Sonic Arts Union) and in the field of electroacoustics. His work stands out for a compositional approach focused on acoustic phenomena. For example, Music for Solo Performer
(1965) amplifies a performer's brain waves to activate percussion instruments; I Am Sitting in a Room
(1970) revealed the frequencies at which a performance space resonates. As of the 1980s, his work re-established a link with instrumental composition and focused mainly on interference beats produced by two sounds with frequencies that are close to each other.
Alvin Lucier has collaborated with many musicians, dancers and interdisciplinary artists, including John Cage
, Pauline Oliveros
, Stephen O'Malley
, Judith Hamann
, Reinier Van Houdt
, Peter Behrendsen
, Mary Lucier and Merce Cunningham. His works are regularly performed by contemporary music ensembles around the world. Alvin Lucier is a major influence on a whole generation of avant-garde, rock and electronic musicians and composers (Oren Ambarchi
, Jim O'Rourke
, Sonic Youth
, Pan Sonic, Alexandre Saint-Onge
, Éric Létourneau, Nurse With Wound
Jordan Dykstra (born 1985 in Sioux City, Iowa) is a Brooklyn-based violist and composer exploring the performer-composer-listener relationship through the incorporation of conceptual, graphic, and text-based elements. In 2007 he moved to Portland and became involved in the experimental music scene in the Pacific NW. Aside from performing and recording with individuals and bands—including Dirty Projectors, A Winged Victory for the Sullen with Hildur Guðnadóttir, Atlas Sound, and Valet—he worked at Marriage Records and Publishing House.