This duet between bass clarinet and circuit-bent Casio SK1 sampler was recorded at the Pittville Pump Room in Cheltenham in January 2003. As one might expect, the music has some of that cold silence which pervades classical music institutions, and which is so repellent to ears used to the demotic bustle of jazz and pop. However, the musicians use one aspect of classical recital to their advantage, which is its staged singularity of performance. Where so much issued music has become calling cards for celebrity rather than a significant act in itself - the malign influence of free music’s reduction of music to the musician; the free jazz griot, the improviser genius - Cundy and Dunn have put everything they can do into one CD.
The musicians are fully in control of their pitches and the music often proceeds by finding a harmony and then forcing it into crisis, unbearable tensions resolved into rhythmic exchange. Cundy also uses a Tinnitus Analyser to detect noises and elevate them into audibility. This provides the musicians with a stimulating randomness - the difference between the unexpected shapes generated by looking and drawing rather than simply doodling and reproducing habit, the eversame.
Eric Dolphy’s example on bass clarinet allows Cundy to exploit the natural resources of the instrument: its old fashioned wood-panelled formalism, the humour of its duck quacks, the urban urgency of its sinuous high tones. Dunn’s electronics are a masterclass in the resources of outdated technology. After being exposed to so much laptop texturing, the ear appreciates the SK1’s limits. They give Dunn’s contributions a jagged starkness, like coming upon a crude screenprint in an exhibition of digital printouts. It’s possible that both musicians are a little too guarded to force the music into a contradiction that might unify an hours performance. However, the quiet care and intensity in the way they listen to each other is really touching.