Larry Ochs

The Mirror World
Metalanguage MLX 2007

Two profoundly different – and stirring – musical musings on the unique films of the late Stan Brakhage, saxophonist Larry Ochs’ compositions, which make up The Mirror World, sonically reach the sense of infinite variety which Brakhage achieved in his films. Neither a portrait of one cinematic creation nor designed as a soundtrack to any of Brakhage’s works, Ochs compositions stand on their own, positing as original ways of hearing sounds as the film maker found personal ways to communicate his version of seeing light.

Including notated music for a 14-piece, plus-two-interpolated-players ensemble, “Hand” includes conduction and improvisational cues. Piling tones one upon another, it resembles Klangfarbenmelodie, with several pitches expressing multiple tone colors. Impressionistic in parts, “Hand” encompasses the distinctive textural and vibrational tones available from reeds, brass, strings and electronics, extended by and resonating from the chromatic distortion of John Schott’s electric guitar and the alternately ringing, stately processional or, most originally, rub-board-like thuds of William Winant’s and Gino Robair’s percussion.

Closer to Energy music, “Wall” is less structured. At times dissonant stutters, pig-like squeals and telescoped multiphonics are expressed by the saxophones of ROVA – Bruce Ackley, Steve Adams, Jon Raskin and Ochs – joined by Winant and Robair’s steady skin pounding. Yet as the tune undulates through several sections, low-key intermezzos that match tam-tam and vibe concussions with reed division between an alto saxophone propelling the melody and a tenor sax trilling variations on it, are as prominent as slap-tongue baritone saxophone riffs and unvarying percussion ruffs, flams, rolls and cow-bell peals.

One of Brakhage’s stated goals was to organize light in the projected image to aesthetically equal the poetry, painting, and music that inspired him. Doubtless he would agree that The Mirror World achieves the same objective from a dissimilar starting point.

— Ken Waxman

— In MusicWorks Issue #102