Since the very outset of our duo, working with electronics has been central to our practice. Our very first commission, for the Cologne Philharmonie’s TripClubbing series back in 2016, was for a new piece by Pierre Alexandre Tremblay, a composer who immediately opened us up to not only the complex interactions between our two instruments, but how those extremes of blend and difference could be accentuated and highlighted by the electronics. From then on, we were hooked.
What we lacked in experience with max, we made up for in enthusiasm (we hope!). A number of pieces followed: Luis Antunes Pena’s comedic The Hunter, in which a chopped up voice sample merges with the instruments in the hunt for coolness, William Kuo’s tubular living, in which clarinets (extended with long lengths of plastic tubing), accordion and a bucket of water are processed by droney electronics, and Miki Manabe’s Beat-time variation (part of our BEAST online release!) in which bass clarinet and accordion trade off with drones in the electronics to some very creepy effects.
We like the extra challenge of working with electronics, we like what they can add to our duo combination, and we like the contrast that a programme with various kinds of electronic processes can bring to a concert. I think we also just like to feel a bit rock ‘n roll.
In addition to our work as a duo, you’ll hear a few solo pieces as part of our online concert. The first is Scott Wilson’s Vivid, for accordion and tape. This wasn’t written for Eva, but we both loved the piece and she brought it with her on our recent 3-week tour of Mexico. I love the dancing figures in the electronics and the way they interact with the graceful figurations in Eva’s accordion playing. (In fact, I loved it so much, Eva made me a ring tone of my favourite bit!)
You’ll also hear Simon Emmerson’s beautiful Wind, Clouds, Showers, for bass clarinet and live electronics. This is the recording from the premiere in London earlier this year. Simon and I spent hours recording and then transcribing keyclicks and air sounds for both soprano and bass clarinet, and he mixed them into this beautiful piece, which imitates the murmurations of starlings.
Finally, you’ll hear an improvised set with Juan Sebastian Lach on electronics. Lach runs a fantastic concert series in his home in Morelia. He has a beautiful concert space there. If you know Café Oto, think of this as a Mexican Café Oto: there are cacti everywhere, high ceilings, two dogs running around enjoying the concert, and homemade mezcal, but otherwise it’s just the same. He had a microphone on each of us, and used the electronics to process our sounds both individually and together to create some really fantastic effects. We loved playing with him.
Heather Roche & Eva Zöllner, April 2020