"The Sonosopher" is the tentative title of a full-length, feature documentary film that is currently in production. This film will document the life and creative works of poet, polyartist, sonosopher, scholar, teacher, mentor...Alex Caldiero. The documentary and this blog are a portion of a greater, ongoing effort to record, document, and archive Alex's life and works.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Alex and Theta Naught

Published in Catalyst Magazine, October 2006

On Words

By Scott Abbott

Abstractions Come Home: A review of Sound Weave, by Theta Naught and Alex Caldiero

Sound Weave

Theta Naught / Alex Caldiero

Differential Records, 2006


While there is plenty to read and see in the liner notes of Sound Weave – a set of striking blue-toned photos of mountains and lakes, night photos of a full moon and lightning over a city, and the texts of Alex Caldiero’s poems printed in white over the photos, there is no way around the fact that vibrations of breath and gut and steel and wood and electronics are the essence of this brilliant collaboration between a self-styled “Sonosopher” and a group of musicians whose name “Theta Naught” and the titles of several tracks (“fibonacci’s pi,” “axioms that satisfy”) reveal their obsession with mathematics (Darren Corey – Drums, Greg Corey – Lap Slide, Peter Romney – Cello, Jared Stanfield – Keys, Ryan Stanfield – Bass).

Theta Naught most often performs without a vocalist, and Caldiero doesn’t work regularly with musicians (although he has a history of occasional collaboration with dancers and sculptors and musicians). Still, when they got together for a performance at Utah Valley State College a year or so ago, the overflow audience could scarcely contain its excitement at an intriguing weaving of sounds and ideas. The current CD, finely engineered, a thing of aural beauty, necessarily lacks some of the sparks of the live performance, but has its own special and substantial delights.

Improvisation between these musicians and poet begins with someone laying down a groove. Sometimes it’s the voice, sometimes the bass, or the drums and the cello, and the instruments often trade off as the groove continues; but each of these songs, whoever’s got the groove, features ongoing improvisational conversation in the context of that groove. Neither poet nor musicians knew what song or poem the other would offer when they began to record a track for this album on a long day last March, but once one or the other laid down a groove – a rhythm and sonority and minimal melody – the pattern was set that played out over the next minutes. Caldiero’s poems stretch to the measure of the music and the music adjusts to the words; just how the two are transformed by working together is apparent in the second CD of music without words and the one poem, “to harpo marx in heaven,” done a cappella.

“Who we are is how we sound together,” intones Caldiero. He repeats the declaration, breaks it into individual syllables, letters even, stretching and clipping the sounds while the electric bass and then drums add layers, interwoven with keyboard effects and bent magic from the lap steel. There is meaning, of course, in the sentence, just as there is meaning in measured notes and numbers. But marrying music and words, at least in this case, diminishes the chord of linguistic meaning and enhances the voice, with its articulated words, as sound among other sounds.

“Won’t you sit down,” the poet asks, his voice rising in question. The cello’s deep, constant line rises, and, conditioned by the voice, we hear a question. The bass breaks tone like a voice, and the voice growls assent. Vocal cords and cello strings resonate the same sustained note. Abundant rhymes “In the Wee Hours” (“Yr plumbing’s bad / Yr drumming’s mad / You’re just like yr dad / & his dad & his dad / & the mother you never had . . .”) work like musical harmonies; and the hearing mind feels like its abstractions have come home.

Sound Weave is available from Slowtrain Music, Orion's Music, Sam Weller's Zion Bookstore, Ken Sanders Rare Books, Vagabond's CafĂ©, and in Provo, Velour Live Music, or from Theta Naught’s website.

Photo of Alex Caldiero performing with Theta Naught at UVSC by Don LaVange

1 comment:

Grabloid said...

You are one step ahead of me Scott. I almost posted some random review of this album that I found online, but remembered that you had reviewed it (I saw it in a newspaper quite some time ago). I was going to ask you to put this up...and here it is already. Great review by the way...