I’m usually wary of any composer who claims to be appropriating/utilizing another culture’s music in their own work. One of my main issues with this practice is that it’s often done more as a forced gimmick rather than the natural culmination of interests and practices. However, when this convergence is the result of stylistic impulses coming together, the results can be stunning. Luckily, Duane Pitre’s latest record, Bridges is in the latter category and manages to merge key elements of Pitre’s distinct style with early “church” music and Eastern tonalities.
Over his last few releases, it’s become clear that one of Pitre’s chief interests is in the manipulation/utilization of the harmonic series. Using microtonal intervals created through the natural acoustics of this series, Pitre creates wonderfully sprawling continuous works like last year’s excellent Feel Free. Where that piece created a constantly changing pointillistic, minimalist texture with Pitre’s material, Bridges is notably less active at first glance. However, this is not a Phil Niblock-esque drone piece like his Quiet Design release ED 09 for String/Wind Ensemble. Instead, Bridges’ slow harmonic movement and counterpoint are reminiscent of modal church music, except that the makeup of these modes is composed of Pitre’s microtonal intervals, which are harmonically used in a manner much closer to Indian classical music’s language than what Pitre has used in the past.
It’s also notable that this seems like the least process-based composition of Pitre’s. While ED 09 and Feel Free had the sense of a musical action being set into motion by the composer, Bridges sounds distinctively formal. This shift in Pitre’s structure becomes apparent during the album’s first half, when the gorgeous folk-like material that occurs about two and a half minutes in returns during the piece’s final minutes. There’s a nice structural ebb and flow throughout, and it’s entirely possible to hear themes and development within each movement of the record.
Even though Pitre clearly incorporates a number of new, unexplored influences into this work, the album still sounds distinctly his own, which is particularly impressive when you realize that the singular Bhob Rainey played saxophone on the record. Bridges is a testament to Pitre’s ability to synthesize both his influences and the aesthetics of his chosen performers into a world decidedly his own.
Bridges is out now via Important Records. We are streaming the album in its entirety, but only for one week.