Lea Bertucci: Acoustic Shadows review I John Lewis’s contemporary album of the month

(SA Recordings)
This musical piece of civil engineering was assembled from recordings made under a bridge in Cologne

New York composer Lea Bertucci made her name as an unorthodox saxophonist – some of her most compelling performances see her playing alto sax or bass clarinet, using assorted looper pedals and tape effects to create improvisations that are pitched somewhere between the hypnotic drone music of La Monte Young and the ecstatic free jazz of Evan Parker. But her most adventurous work fits into the rather nebulous category of “sound artist”.

For several years, she has been exploring the acoustics of unusual venues, including an underground lake in upstate New York, a nuclear plant in Stockholm and a former military base in Paris. Instead of describing her work as “site-specific” (which implies that a listener needs to be present for it to work) Bertucci prefers “site-responsive”, tapping into each space’s unique acoustic properties. She starts by establishing the “room tone” – the point at which the space resonates – and uses that as the harmonic basis for what she plays.

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