Sarah Davachi Pale Bloom

[W.25th; 2019]

Styles: nard or valerian, artemisia or angelica, thyme, vanilla, savory, oregano, cinnamon and benzoin, hyssop or coriander, lemon balm, myrrh, ginger, marjoram
Others: Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, Young’s Well-Tuned Piano

There’s always a fold, a folding, and, unfolding, a turning inward on itself. There’s always the incense rising in wisps as in wavers, gathering into its ash-spiral ascent the silent vigil of vespers, hysperic murmurations that do not disturb and not even the veil, the vergers of sleep. There’s always light, and, scattered into the refracted splendor of dust, there’s always lightness that gathers the undoing into what undoes itself in a sheen sacred, as the traces of the candle wax that marks the grace departed, or shivers, sole remnants of the sky, and ash, trembling in the tendrils of wind that convey it to the scattered reaches of its fate.

There’s always this light and lightness, there’s always this, this always. With Sarah Davachi’s baroque venture on Pale Bloom into the sensuous folds of light blooming into light, one can hear unfolding this always light and lightness. One can hear unfolding. As on the first of her incensual songs (“Perfumes I”), an antique piano frailty (as if Bach could be resuscitated, this apropos of the composer who testifies that God, in the event of his decease, can revive precisely while we are listening to certain cantatas, certain fugues) unravels itself into the vibrations of its synthetic recollection. Bare of ornament and longingly, this achingly almost a cantata rises as it falls, which is to say that it unfolds as incense as on an empty altar as in an empty church.

Yet, miraculously, it meets alone its remembrance. Or rather, they do not meet, for there is no touching through windowless indolence, but they mingle like twisting strands of smoke, like the earth from which it was released and the sky that will receive it in its vastness. They correspond, as in Baudelaire’s synesthetic “Correspondances,” where the erotic mingling in nature’s temple of the symbolic is brought together only in the prolonged echoes, only in the ténébreuse et profonde unité of the vast smoldering spiral of smoke. The archaic fragility of the piano cantata folds with and enfolds its electronic shroud that shudders, reflects, and refracts, darting vanishingly between the silent resolutions — the statue and its shadow marking the moment when a single shudder provokes a tremor in the whole vastness unfolding.

The baroque extends in infinite folds. Swooning on high, substance disperses, as does light, lightly into the tessellated fabrics of El Greco. In marble veins as in clouds, billows, draperies, and tresses, creases and conglomerations of dust, the baroque twists, turns, torques, folds, and unfurls a labyrinth of infinite correspondence, where everything, shimmering in harmonic resonance with everything else, God, and itself, oscillates as in a mist or fog that makes the surface of the universe sparkle. All diffuse and vaporous, form is relieved of representation and, liberated totally, enters into relation with nothing but itself, which is to say with the sensation of the celestial, which can do nothing but strike us, sensuously, we who are thus stricken.

Bach’s baroque, for instance, implies less the meaning of “pre-classical,” as if such a temporal cenotaph would sediment in the tradition of how-nice-things-were, not his music, but what we’d make of it to justify our belonging to it. Rather, it yields that minor meaning of excess, extreme allegorical expression, the vanishing point of view, and a red velvet curtain that distills and diffuses the night. What is archaic in Bach is not what is relegated to pre-history, such that, now distanced, it can validate the present and so postpone the future, but rather that in which one hears the past entrusted with the utopia that it must herald.

If we were to interpret it as such, we must also realize it. Or, not we, because in the night of this past, we are alone, accompanied only by the possibilities of otherwise than us. Not we, but Sarah Davachi, whose baroque from her past experiments — in the martyrdom of droning subsistence and patience and insistence — has slowly emerged with both Let Night Come…’s light memories of Chopin or Satie (undone in darkness, as I tried before to intimate) and Gave in Rest’s choral, vast profundity, returning to a past at the moment it turns to her and, meeting in the correspondence across an impossible distance of impossible times, enfolding them both like the unfolding of perfume’s wafts and waves.

How does a rose disrobe? Like smoke unwinding itself, unyielding, languid and luxuriant, as in the pure indolence of morning. It undoes itself in wisps and whispers, folding together its ascendant ash with that in which it disperses its love and, loving, its loss. Like perfume and breath, the stench of death, perhaps, or the dolorous vapors of impossible remembrance, like the torpid tenor breathes some French chorale on “Perfumes II” folding into the arrhythmic stutters of the piano’s waft and wave. Almost urgent, the voices wash into the echoes of a prayer, the words of which we no longer know how to pronounce. The syllabic circular steps unwind the voice into the sheer echoes that haunt all open spaces enclosed only by the open.

The piano plays on “Perfumes III” a forgotten past that, because it can’t be remembered, refuses forgetting and haunts only the possibility of the present’s dissolution, which is why its accompaniment (it does not accompany, or, if it does, it attends us like our shadow that overtakes us when we turn the corner) is the pure dissolution of its sound into the wavering of the organ’s once mournful plight.

Where the chords that open La Monte Young’s The Well-Tuned Piano (chords that also remind one of the lilting start of Mark Hollis’s “The Colour of Spring”) are irresolute in their just tuning, tense in the tones of pure intonation, and a mathematical purity that, anesthetized, threatens to collapse, these same chords in “Perfumes III” waver at the brink of bareness. With the past being not the thrust of the weight on the keys, but a lassitude, a weariness, these same chords confront the immense distance spanning Bach’s well-tempered and Young’s well-tuned in the same immensity that separates the chords from their synthetic sheen, an immensity that unveils its dissonant dissolution as a sound might hear its echo, or as the fluttering candle flame the smoke that rises from it might only in the sputtering silence of its dying light.

A forgotten past externalized in the air beneath the angel’s wing that propels its flight into unknown futures, one hears a wavering, a tremor, and, tenderly, in this love that perfumes our lives, a presence of the far-away that is carried in the folds of fragrant emanations.

A metaphor of the metaphor, the perfume that Kristeva calls “the sublimation of rejection (of sadism?) and carrion” comes from that archaic universe “where what takes place is the conveyance of the most opaque lovers’ indefinite identities” with “a blazon of correspondences” that becomes condensed in the pulverization of the identities of all correspondences. The ecstasy of vaporishness on the verge of extinction leads no-one-knows-where, because it’s the transport of the self’s decay, a levitation, “lifting the self toward an invisible Other” with the waves of shivers and sighs. An impossible memory that seizes one at the moment of dissolution, beckoning one into its folds.

At last, Davachi’s most magisterial work to date, “If It Pleased Me to Appear to You Wrapped in These Draperies,” captures this soft movement of folding, unfolding, and, enfolding one into the folding unfolding of this soft movement, the dissolution of the sound and its echo, the flame and its smoke, into their correspondence, their splendor, their diffuse, murmuring shades. Opening in the utter vulnerability of a spring reduced to the sound of a string that can hardly be distinguished from either the scratch of the bow or the resonance of the silence, “If It Pleased Me” unravels step-by-step with the patience or austerity of Pärt’s “Pari Intervallo” or “De Pacem” until the hoarse, ashen sound of the string faces the clarity of its sonorous shadow.

Then they fold and intertwine, weaving, unweaving their contamination and condensation into the confusion of their borders so that we might say with Baudelaire that, being itself destabilized, “Her breathing makes the music / as her voice emits the scent.” And in the synesthetic fusion of the most removed, each step conjures a step from the shadow, each sound charms its silence, and the tapestry that is woven in the chiaroscuro of the immaculate radiance of a universe that corresponds in every dimension, glimmering in the folds of this intimate drapery after all have left the theater, is condensed into a shimmering drone from the harmony of which is extracted the most divine melody of wavering overtones that can pierce even the stained glass ceiling of the celestial or anoint the dead body, missing from the tomb.


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