Like pure mathematics, Tristan Perich’s music is something else. Waves or quanta? Mass or abstraction? One or zero? The focus of the discussion could be confined to the aesthetics, but in doing so we would lose sight of the method; vice versa, aim at analyzing the mode and you will never fully appreciate the principles of his art. In turn, this uncertainty principle in music simply evaporates without an attentive listener because you, the client user, are as indispensable as any bit in the sequence. You hear, listen and judge the series of tones and repetition, and although the real sense of it all will always remain obscurely vague, the more superficial layers will appear in all their simple elegance.
If you’re familiar with Perich as a music composer, you are aware of his affair with 1-bit music, or a sound that allows only one bit of music to be played at any given time. Minimalism, purism, discipline are the three components that make up his music, and this album in particular. Commissioned and performed by the Meehan/Perkins Duo, Parallels is part of a series which will continue in the spring with another composition (Telescope), then one in the summer (Dual Synthesis ) to end in grandiose fashion with Active Field , or the love marriage between ten violins and 10-channel 1-bit electronics, together with the Ensemble Signal conducted by Brad Lubman, one of the most brilliant young conductors around.
Commissioned by Todd Meehan and Doug Perkins, Parallels is a piece for hi-hats, 4-channel 1-bit electronics and tuned triangles, and it is the exploration of the virtually infinite possibilities of percussive sound. Considering Tristan Perich’s renowned talent for the visual arts – some of you may already know his most famous work, The Microtonal Wall , or 1,500 speakers, each playing a single microtonal frequency – his music is obviously closely related to a quasi-cinematographic feel.
One could easily see the obvious similarities with Steve Reich’s work – with Music for 18 Musicians being an understandable influence – but what Perich manages to do is enhance the magnitude of the interaction between man and machine, with one completely intertwined with the other. “With this series, I’m experimenting with presenting my compositional work as a collection of singles rather than curated albums”, says Perich on the press release. “I want to connect the listening experience back to the original composition, as well as highlight the separate roles of composer and performer. It is the performer who translates score into sound, a live event that is captured and becomes the recording.” And one can’t help but feel the live element; a component which becomes apparent, probably due to the album’s precarious balance (or “parallel”) between tone and noise, accent and cacophony, on some sort of poetry of oppositions. It is precarious, delicate, but not demure, implicit, frail.
We can easily expect Parallels to be the perfect departure point laying the foundation of the future releases with its mixture of pulses (both mechanic and organically-induced) and discipline, and we might be fascinated by the cleanliness of 1-bit music, but what is certain is that this is music that can be enjoyed and examined at various levels. The mesmerizing facet or the mechanical approach? The purity of the bit or the mellifluent stream of music as a whole?
Both are by-products of 46 minutes’ worth of a trance-like descent into the realm of simple and yet tremendously effective music. One way or another, Perich manages to construct a postmodern, rich piece of art by deconstructing his craft. One way or another, the listener is drawn to this piece from the first minute to the last because the listener is themselves part of the experience. Or simply because this is, indeed, something else and it needs to be experienced.