modulus of resilience




Cao Thanh Lan - prepared zither, electronics
Beat Keller - feedbacker electric guitar
Gregor Siedl - clarinet, electronics

All music by Cao Thanh Lan, Beat Keller and Gregor Siedl.
Recorded at Atelier Sachlink Vienna, Celeste Vienna, Beat's studio in Winterthur and Studio 8 in Klosterneuburg between January and June 2018.
Recording, mixing and mastering by Gregor.

Thanks to Philipp, Fritz and Sascha for their support.


released February 17, 2019

The title of this debut release by the Swiss-Austrian-Vietnamese trio of Beat Keller on a customised feedbacker guitar, Gregor Siedl on clarinet and electronics, and Cao Thanh Lan on electronics and prepared zither is absolutely programmatic. (By the way, the fact that Lan also calls her instrument “marxophone” does not necessarily have political implications, in fact it was named after instrument builder Henry Charles Marx.) “The modulus of resilience is defined as the maximum energy that can be absorbed per unit volume without creating a permanent distortion” (Wikipedia), and in the three to nine minute real-time compositions on this album, recorded at various live concerts and in studios in Austria and Switzerland in 2018, the trio is constantly testing ways to approach this level of maximum energy.

That does not mean, however, that they are always aiming straight for the noisy breaking-point of high-volume power play, although they repeatedly show that they are perfectly capable of that, high-pitched dissonance between the metallic zither strings and the surging guitar feedbacks included. For Cao Keller Siedl, “energy” means “intensity,” and of course musical intensity can be at its maximum in the quietest moments. Pulsating patterns of high-frequency beats, suddenly emerging dreamy chords, then again deep growls of feedback that come rising up from the lower registers are only a very few of the varied, but never arbitrary, structural devices of this music. The way in which the players manage to craft suspenseful dramaturgy even within only a few minutes' time proves that they have already developed an elaborate shared musical language, and gives this debut album a decidedly mature feel in the best sense of the word. Creating beauty from harsh and tender materials alike, their music certainly has a redeeming quality in facing some of the ugliness of the human condition. So perhaps the title could eventually be programmatic on another level as well, because in psychology, “resilience is the ability to cope with a crisis or to return to pre-crisis status quickly.” (Wikipedia).

File under: Free improvisation, Real-time composition



Although it may sound like one name, this is, in fact, a trio. It features Beat Keller (A great pseudonym I should think, but it is his real name!) on 'customized feedback guitar', Gregor Siedl on clarinet and electronics and Cao Thanh Lan on electronics and prepared zither. The title of the CD is programmatic here, as they roll out Wiki to tell us "the modulus of resilience is defined as the maximum energy that can be absorbed per unit volume without creating a permanent distortion", which actually for me still doesn't mean much, but maximum energy being controlled without leaping into a full blast noise is something I do understand from the music here. The eight pieces were recorded in concert and in the studio in Austria and Switzerland and it's all a direct to tape recording. While I was listening to the music, a few thoughts crossed my mind. The first was that I was wondering how loud this music is supposed to be. At home there is the possibility to control the volume and turn it up or down as you see fit, but how do they do this in concert? I am not sure but I can imagine it is with quite some vigour. Then I was thinking about what this is music is, say if you want to give it a label. And yes, I know giving it a label is surely not something one should do, but alas so these things go. I would think this is not necessarily improvised music in the most traditional sense, or even the more progressive sense, with all the feedback and noise related sounds that fly about, mainly from the guitar, so we could believe, but in fact, all three instruments do not sound very regular. Very occasionally one can recognize the guitar or the clarinet or the zither, but just most of the times one can't and it's all static, crackles, hiss, feedback and noise. It is never too much 'real' noise, in the also traditional sense, as it keeps cutting back and chopping up, never allowing for something to go on for a bit longer. And just as well it also cuts off the volume and leaps into a quieter field of interest, exploring sounds on a more microscopic level. It is all quite the sonic overload but no permanent damage is done and it's a wealth for the ears.





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