Friday, July 1, 2016

Listen/Watch: Christopher Tignor - "Shapeshifting"

While the classical music realm and the ever growing world of technology have more often than not been at odds with each other, there are a growing number of artists who have recognized the creative possibilities that embracing technology affords them. Violinist/composer/software engineer Christopher Tignor is one of those artists. From his earliest recording projects Slow Six and Wires Under Tension, Tignor has made software a valuable part of both his composition and his performance process; the mathematical precision of classical music theory elevated by the science of Tignor's tech. That intersection is where Tignor's art lives. "Shapeshifting", the first taste of Tignor's upcoming double LP/video album Along a Vanishing Plane, both continues in that tradition and breaks away from it. Along a Vanishing Plane was recorded curiously enough without any of the overdubs or loops that you would attribute to a musician like Christopher Tignor. Instead Tignor relies on his trusty violin and the software for his latest round of compositions.

The first thing you hear in "Shapeshifting" isn't the violin, however, but a tuning fork and triangle. The strike of metal against metal, chiming out in the space of Hudson NY's Second Ward sets off a chain reaction when Tignor brings the tuning fork against the bridge of his violin to resonate. Tignor's custom built software registers the tuning fork resonating against the bridge through the violin pickup and spits out the piece's first melodies. If that wasn't enough, Tignor controls the flow of the melody through pedals and whether the tuning fork sets of the melody or his actual playing does via pizzicato. It all sounds rather academic in theory but Tignor never lets the piece get bogged down with the science. The software is programmed but largely Tignor is behind the wheel, directing where melody climbs or descents based on his feeling in the present moment. The presence of a bass drum and cymbal, essentially weave its way to fabric of the piece and keep it from getting too atmosphere. The constant percussion ensures everything moves forward and quickly, not letting the innovation rest on its own laurels.

In "Shapeshifting", Tignor takes use of the tuning fork, which might appear gimmicky, and elevates it to a timbre focal point and instigator. Tignor has never been one for gimmicks so his commitment to the tuning fork both as a means of percussion and to set off the software erases all doubt. "Shapeshifting", much like it's name implies, is about the journey. Its subtle crest into a prevalent percussion galvanized groove before allow itself to slowly cyclically unravel towards nothingness. It's a piece far more about composition and method than it is virtuosity and it's all the better for it, captivating with its ephemeral melodies that still manage to make a fascinating lasting impression..

Along a Vanishing Plane, Christopher Tignor's new visual album, will be out September 16th on Western Vinyl.

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