American-New york-based composer-violist Jessica Pavone adopts the role of a sonic healer on «Lull», her first composition for string octet (2 violins, 2 violas, 2 celli, 2 double basses) with two acclaimed soloists, Yeah Yeah Yeahs percussionist Brian Chase (who also mixed and mastered the album, designed the cover art with Kevin Bud Jones and released the album via his Chaikin Records) and trumpeter Nate Wooley. Pavone was inspired by processes that center intuition and instinct, learning from sound healers and alternative healing practices, and wanted to explore how sonic vibrations affect the body and illuminate hidden emotions. She weaved into this composition her many experiences both as a classical and jazz musician, working with artists like guitarist Mary Halvorson and saxophonist Anthony Braxton, to form her genre-transcendent music.
«Lull» is a four-movement composition that focuses on flexibility rather than perfection. The music is meant to sit right in the body, and not force the artists to cram their hands in challenging positions. The composition was crafted around notes that Chase and Wooley marked as good to work with, and Pavone’s score stresses open pitches that players oscillate between at their own rate, taking advantage of the natural resonance of instruments. She directed the musicians to move between phrases at specific time points, floating between loosely dictated notes until they reach the designated clock marker telling them to switch to the next phrase. The structured, economic improvisations reject the notion of show-off so common in jazz improvisation and the rigidity of classical music in favor of gently structured spontaneity. Pavone adds that she meant that Lull would be like a lullaby, and listening feels like a dream, a soothing balm to lose yourself in, one second at a time.
«Lull» was recorded at Scholes Street Studio in Brooklyn during the pandemic in October 2020. Each of the four pieces embraces the theme of comfort. The opening «Indolent», or little or no pain, cements the gentle yet elusive vibrations of this introspective, drone-focused composition; «Holt», or wood, takes a completely different course and suggests a dissonant and abstract drone, punctuated by the unpredictable rhythmic patterns of Chase, before it settles on a quiet meditative vein and concluded with an expressive solo of Wooley; «Ingot», or metal, with Wooley’s poetic, sustained lines, embraced beautifully by the octet, sounds like an enigmatic ritual, as if the delicate sound waves wash away the burden of daily life; the last movement, «Midmost» or middle, is anchored by the deep, dark tones of bassists Shayna Dulberger and Nicholas Jozwiak and sketches melancholic, monochromatic statis.
«Lull» extended the sonic vision of Pavone, deepens the emotional impact of long tones, sustained resonances and repetition and offers an inspiring listening experience.
Aimée Niemann (vio), Charlotte Munn-Wood (vio), Jessica Pavone (viola), Abby Swidler (viola), Christopher Hoffman (c), Meaghan Burke (c), Shayna Dulberger (b), Nicholas Jozwiak (b), Brian Chase (snare dr, amplified cymbal), Nate Wooley (Bb tp solo)