Zach Wallace: Glass Armonica
Root Strata

Glass Armonica, the first solo CD from Zach Wallace (he and Greg Davis make up the drone duo Sun Circle), is more than a little audacious on sonic grounds. Recorded live with no edits, dubs, or added effects, the recording showcases the distinctive sound of Wallace's Armonica, an instrument loosely based on a 1761 design by Benjamin Franklin and built from thrift-store wine glasses and salvaged lumber and hardware. Wallace's version of the instrument can be played by as many as twelve players (four play on the CD) and is tuned by the pitches of the glasses. Filled to varying levels, the glasses, when rubbed by fingers on top, produce glassy, organ-like pitches. As such, the recording sounds pretty much how one would expect it to: carousel-like swirls and whistling drones of pristine character that swell and sway serenely for twenty-minute spells (the CD includes two long-form pieces capped by a brief coda). If one didn't know better, one would assume that the music was generated, at least in part, using electronic tools of some kind but, in fact, Glass Armonica is wholly acoustic. Once begun, a given piece unfolds with a single-mindedness (reminiscent of early Philip Glass settings such as “Train” from Einstein on the Beach, for example, or Music in 12 Parts) that's so relentless, its sudden end comes as a bit of a shock and one is left momentarily stunned as the tones' sustain fades into oblivion.

June 2009