String Dialogues is a collection of six experimental duo recordings initiated by the Swedish guitarist-contemporary composer-improviser Peter Söderberg, investigating carefully different tuning systems, unconventional timbres and the idea of hybrid instruments. These delicate and cerebral dialogs are informed by Söderberg’s comrades and fellow improvisers – Katt Hernandez, Stina Hellberg Agback, Mats Persson, Sten Sandell, My Hellgren and Vilhelm Bromander. The album features an extensive booklet with Söderberg’s reflections on the music.
The first duet, «Close», is with Söderberg playing the acoustic guitar and violinist Hernandez, with the guitar employing a tuning that uses the same interval between all the strings – a fourth lowered by a sixth of a tone, and the violin with all the strings sounding a minor third lower than normal. This piece attempt to blend the resonating sounds of both instruments, especially in its second part with the aid of an e-bow on the guitar strings. The second duet, «Symbiosis», with Söderberg playing the baroque theorbo with harpist Agback, with the two instruments using diatonic tuning of the strings and producing natural harmonics of fifths and octaves. This piece also desires to reach an elusive fusion of the instruments, but the small deviations in pitch distort this desire. The third duet «Distant» for Söderberg on the Renaissance lute and Persson on the clavichord is more playful and employs a meantone temperament, which was dominant in the 16th century. It reflects the tonality of the distant historical period when these instruments flourished, but sounds fresh and untimely.
The fourth duet, «Continuum», for Söderberg playing the oud and cellist Hellgren focuses on a tonal center suggested by the consistent tuning of the instruments in order to create a close relation with the Arabic lute, but surprisingly Söderberg and Hellgren create an intriguing equilibrium. The fifth duet, «Apart», for Söderberg playing the acoustic guitar with pianist Sandell separates the tuning of the two instruments a quarter tone apart, while the two instruments produce similar phrasing and use the same economic playing techniques like playing with one hand alone. It suggests collisions of ideas that patiently gravitate into a shared conclusion. The last duet «Sustain» for Söderberg on the theorbo and double bass player Bromander focuses on the upper regions of the two instruments that are known for their deep tones, and use the overtone series of the open strings. This is the most radical and unworldly duet. Söderberg plays with a hand-held fan on the low strings of the theorbo while Bromander offers high-bowed harmonics, in order to create, again, the elusive notion that makes it hard to know which instrument produces which sound.
Peter Söderberg (guitar, lute, oud, theorbo), Katt Hernandez (violin), Stina Hellberg Agback (harp), Mats Persson (clavichord), My Hellgren (cello), Sten Sandell (piano), Vilhelm Bromander (double bass)