AXEL DÖRNER/FRED LONBERG-HOLM

Object 1
Locust Music L 23

Dadaist in conception and execution, OBJECT 1 is the first of a series of collaborations that asks improvising musicians to create a so-called soundtrack for static objects. In this case the Duchampian objects to be aurally pictured are a bowling ball [!], a chest x-ray[!!], and a brillo pad [!!!].

Propitiously enough, the inceptive experimenters are German trumpeter Axel Dörner and Chicago cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, who both have plenty of experience negotiating the cracks between noise, music and silence. While the end results are unique, they’re best sampled in small doses, perhaps one track at a time. Plus, left unanswered, if all the music isn’t designed as a collage of images, is which inanimate object is described on each of the five unlabeled tracks.

Along with Boston’s Greg Kelley, Berlin-based Dörner has created a new eviscerated sound for the trumpet which he has displayed in large ensembles ranging from Ken Vandermark’s Chicago-based Territory band to Berlin’s King Übü Orchestrü and in smaller groups featuring British saxophonist John Butcher and Danish drummer Raymond Strid. Lonberg-Holm’s associations range from small bands like Pillow and Witches and Devils to large aggregations such as Peter Brötzmann’s Tentet.

These duos with Dörner seem to have him starting from scratch. At least that’s the most prevalent sounds you hear when he rakes his bow across the cello strings. That is when he isn’t bouncing the implement across the instrument’s front or using it to create aviary chirrups from the top of its range.

Silence and protracted whirring drones, triple stops, gentle legato chords and pressure on all four strings at once that create surrealistic string quartet references are also part of his technique. Sometimes, among the rubbed, shrilling and buzzing string tones, he even produces a whole, emphasized note.

Groans and growls from half-depressed valves characterize the trumpet’s contribution, along with passages that often appear to have captured his spittle dripping from the bell. Sounding sometimes as if real-time tongue surgery is being performed, Dörner can also be near noiseless at certain times, then explode into uniform continuous tones.

From elevated air kisses and bird squeals at one end of his range, he can sink to largo foghorn honks or get even more subterranean, producing elongated cistern drones. His throat gets involved in the improvisations as well as his mouth and breath, producing Bronx cheer-like tones and a flushing lavatory suggestion, even without a plunger mute.

String scouring and laceration may be Lonberg-Holm’s most common creation, whereas turning a barely heard wisp of sound into an unending stream of pure air is Dörner’s. Still the two sound sources meld to such an extent that it’s often impossible to figure out what comes from each. Completely acoustic and abrasive, there are times where it seems that sampled and/or synthesized tones may have added to the overall production.

Not for everyone, and certainly not for anyone who isn’t willing to invest considerable, serious listening time, OBJECT 1 is still a fascinating intellectual challenge fore the sonically adventurous.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. 14:13 2. 9:04 3. 9:04 4. 12:29 5. 7:05

Personnel: Axel Dörner (trumpets); Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello)