Duane Pitre / Pilotram Ensemble Organized Pitches Occurring in Time

[Important; 2007]

Styles: drone, minimalism
Others: Pauline Oliveros, Terry Riley, Stephen Vitiello, Giacinto Scelsi

Duane Pitre used to be a member of Camera Obscura, but for the better part of this decade he’s been living in New York City and developing his minimalist aesthetic through lots of sessioning and writing. This record compiles two performances of a piece he wrote entitled "Ensemble Drones." The liner notes claim that the score is only a skeleton: the performers are left to flesh out the instrumentation, performance space, and even pitch as they see fit. Pitre envisions a piece that will be different with every performance. The two versions of "Ensemble Drones" on offer here indicate that those differences will be subtle but worthwhile. Both tracks exceed 20 minutes and coast through that playing time at an unhurried pace. Like a lot of drone pieces, this music is only as rewarding as your patience and curiosity allow it to be. The grand, rippling textures give the impression of a vibrating sunset, the colors of the spectrum shimmying against each other as they fade into darkness. You can enjoy the vista from afar, listening in a passive, meditative mode, or you can throw yourself into it, try to probe the undulating layers for pattern. Either way, the elegance and grandeur of the music is undeniable.

Instruments include guitar, cello, viola, tone generator, and saxophone, but ultimately the individual voicings are less important than their choral impact. The various timbres are threaded together as tightly as muscle fibers, a sign of the tremendous poise the musicians exercise throughout the piece. They respond and yield to each other well, creating a lovely sense of push and pull without ever slipping into redundant phrases. The second performance is darker than the first, and the presence of breath is much more pronounced. The clarinet and brass provide thick, cloudy interruptions of a work much more anxious than its quiet, rolling cousin. Cheers to Pitre for creating and executing a beautiful concept. Twice.

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