The Wind Among the Reeds
Doug Wieselman | From Water
Solo clarinet records are not exactly trendy, are
they? After hearing Doug Wieselman’s From Water, I’m thinking that maybe they ought to be.
Wieselman is a New York musician who’s been on the rock, jazz, experimental, theater and
TV-scoring scene a long time, and he’s done a lot of sideman-type work for the
new-rock/new-genre likes of Laurie Anderson,
Yoko Ono, Antony & The Johnsons,
Marianne Faithfull and Hal Willner and Marc Ribot, as well as playwrights Robert
Wilson and Athol Fugard; he co-wrote all the music to Nickelodeon's The Backyardigans with
former Lounge Lizard Evan Lurie, too.
Anyway, From Water is one of these terribly
fashionable solo-clarinet-with-electronics projects you’ve been hearing so much about. The tracks
were inspired, says Wieselman, by the sounds he has heard when listening to bodies of water.
The album is thus a largely benign and meditative experience, though rippled with a mental
tumult and tension buried ‘neath the waves of spontaneous structural approach and harmonic
interplay/distortion among digitally multiplied clarinets. “Pacific 2” loops gentle, simple
undulations of clarinet to fascinating perception-altering effect, so that at one point out of the
side of your ear you think you’re hearing bagpipes. “Moonhaw” counterpoints filtered clarinet
loops to create a sort of tone of open-mindedness, an inquisitive place that is placid but not
softy-puffy, and, similar to the rest of the pieces, something that is really not correctly bagged as
jazz or ambient or contemporary classical music. “Tennessee Valley” deals in digitally delayed
deliberate lines in counterpoint, in petite variations such as added loops of mouthpiece squeal
and squark. “Kepler-22b” makes interesting use of the upper registers to create split-tone effects
over drawn-out single clarinet phrases; there is something akin to the head-pinching sound-wall
of Gagaku in this one. “Gloria Fleur Madre” offers small bits of a clarinet’s squiggle and undulating
squirm in jumbled timings much like the random sound non-patterns you’d hear sitting by the
shore –– seagulls cry, waves roll in, seashells trickle back out to sea.
This is pure music, and a real ear-cleansing sort of experience. More importantly, perhaps, it’s a seductive and persuasive one, and I must say that I love Wieselman’s quiet determination to play, quite simply, only and exactly what he feels like playing.
–– John Payne
Doug Wieselman makes a rare live appearance in his hometown Los Angeles on April 14, at the Blue Whale in Little Tokyo. He’ll play solo clarinet and do a second set with the Timothy Young/Doug Wieselman Quintet, which features Wieselman on clarinets and guitars; Timothy Young, guitars; Keefus Ciancia, keyboards; Sebastian Steinberg, bass; and Danny Frankel, drums. 123 Astronaut E S Onizuka St #301, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (213) 620-0908