Out of the Playground is a collection of five distinct and most challenging, commissioned compositions for Italian, Oslo-based experimental flutist Alessandra Rombolà, penned by Italian composer Daniela Terranova and by Norwegian composers Jan Martin Smørdal (two compositions), Ingar Zach (together with Rombolà) and Lasse Marhaug. These compositions reflect the album title, attempting to venture out of the playground of scenes and genres, as well as Rombolà’s free and explorative performances. Violinist and music critic Jennifer Gerston, who wrote the liner notes, adds that the playground symbolizes for many of us a sort of Eden, and now when we are thrown out of this paradise playground, rumor has it that a flutist knows the way back.
Smørdal’s «Répétitions II» and «Répétitions I» (both 2020) employ the addcoder—an audio device, developed by the composer and can simultaneously record, amplify, and playback—in two studies of iteration. These compositions are called by Smørdal «sonic sculptures» and both pieces force Rombolà to adapt her extended breathing techniques to the chaotic yet repetitive variations of the addcoder, highly percussive ones on «Répétitions II» but more ethereal and cyclical on «Répétitions I». She slowly and patiently sketch broader contours for these pieces. Rombolá and Zach’s «The Ring» was inspired by the composers’ interest in circular time. Rombolà performs the first half on the bass flute in dialogue with herself playing Zach’s percussive cells. Later, her ethereal piccolo flute playing is contrasted by Zach’s mysterious electronics, but then Rombolà achieves a fragile sense of balance with Zach’s ambiance and completes the cycle – the ring.
Terranova’s only acoustic piece here, «Breathing Rust and Clouds» (2019), demands Rombolà to explore a subtle storm of percussive techniques while searching for timbral possibilities, resulting from her request that Terranova would draw upon her previous writing for strings. Marhaug’s 26-minute «Our Forbidden Land» (2022) is the most enigmatic and impressive one. It structures layered recordings of Rombolà’s playing in response to unsettling images and sounds, on top of which Rombolà produced fleeting melodic lines. Her flute playing here moves between the erratic, plainspoken, exotic and at times even noisy and otherworldly. This piece reflects «forbidden dreams» of living in other places, a craving for homes both known and unknown, and it completes perfectly Rombolà’s ambitious vision of venturing out of the playground of scenes and genres.
Alessandra Rombolà (fl)