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Unquenchable Fire by Deep Listening Band & Joe McPhee Quartet

In 1998, the first recording ever was made in the not-yet totally shaped studio at the Deep Listening Space in Kingston, NY. This recording is called UNQUENCHABLE FIRE. The musicians are the Deep Listening Band and the Joe McPhee Quartet. The Deep Listening Band is Pauline Oliveros on accordion, Stuart Dempster on trombone and didgeridoo, and David Gamper on keyboard, flutes and electronics. The McPhee quartet is Joe McPhee on soprano sax, alto clarinet and digital horn, Joe Giardullo on flutes and bass clarinet, Monica Wilson on cello, and Karen Jurgens on drums.

Before being the name of a CD, UNQUENCHABLE FIRE is the name of a book written by Rachel Pollack. Rachel Pollack and Joe McPhee are both from Poughkeepsie, NY. Neither knew one another before coming together in the Deep Listening Space. The words and the music are the breath and the life of McPhee’s composition for this recording. It is how the breath and life interact which invites thorough engagement with the sound that comes out bit by bit from this silvery disc.

The core of the intermixing of the verbal and musical elements is the mystery of their union. It would seem obvious that the recitation of words would trigger an illustrative response from the music that follows. Both are based on the line of the story which is a fantastically fictitiously legendary history of Poughkeepsie. Whatever words are spoken can be heard as the first notes of each musical section. However the music is interpreted outside of the words is a product of the quality of the understanding of the words, which are poetry in sentences, jewels of Pollack’s verbal art.

The music flows generously from the signals that arrive to the musicians by way of McPhee’s graphic score, one instrument line interwoven with another, a result of a semi-conscious, automatic process based on the influx of experience and the outflow of giftedness. The music begins as if trickling down to the earth from outer space. And the words are heard several times, in a manner of non-sequiturs, in Pollack’s mildly inflected mezzo tones as distinctive, but intentionally integrated, groups of phrases within all of the four movements of the composition. The collaboration of the two bands endow the sound with an elegance and nearly royal personality.

There is something that is excessively thoughtful & honorable about the complete presence of the instruments. I escape into the procedure of the sound; I am surrounded and penetrated by the complexities of the instrumentation and the richness which is evoked--no matter whether the instruments are playing together or singly, at high peaks, in dissonant collectiveness, monotonous drones, tingling over-tones, sonically anthropomorphic analogies and the most basic deep bass-ness. It is as if the music becomes the dreams of the spoken voice and the spoken voice becomes the waking state of the music. Irrevocably wedded.

Such interdisciplinary aggregation as the recording, UNQUENCHABLE FIRE, is exemplifies the true nature of the mind: un-narrow, operational on several levels at once, indivisible within and without itself, & tied to all sensory reverberation of the nerves. It is the nature of mind that does not lack for enjoyment of or sensibility to the breath and the life that is.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Deep Listening Band & Joe McPhee Quartet
  • CD Title: Unquenchable Fire
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2003
  • Record Label: Deep Listening
  • Musicians: Pauline Oliveros (accordion), Stuart Dempster (trombone, didgeridoo) David Gamper (keyboard, flutes, electronics), Joe McPhee (soprano sax, bass clarinet, Casio digital horn), Joe Giardullo (flutes, bass clarinet), Monica Wilson (cello), Karen Jurgens (drums), Rachel Pollack (text).
  • Rating: Five Stars
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