The first sound heard on Anthony Moore’s CSound & Saz, released on Touch, acts as a commanding call to attention, circular and slicing, something that sounds like metal on metal. But as that sound decays, it transforms into a glowing drone. As Moore explains it in this recent WIRE magazine article:
“I attached a contact microphone to my Turkish saz, strummed it and harmonised the sound with resonant filters, so it became like an organ drone…. Letting that ring on, I used an E-bow to produce a further layer of zinging harmonics and shifting timbres. Then samples of saz were manipulated in various ways, using the CSound coding system. The instrument’s sound became more and more transformed from its natural state….”
What transpires from that bold opening is essentially a live performance, albeit online, and offered in lieu of an engagement Moore was scheduled for at a Touch 40th Anniversary performance, but had to cancel owing to Covid.
That’s the technical and logistical background of the piece (though I admit I lack the space and the courage to delve here into Moore’s 50-plus year career as an experimental musician, writer and singer of complex rock, and soundtrack artist). Even the album title is as functionally descriptive as a recipe, avoiding the slightest gesture of interpretation or suggestion. The heart of the matter is, as always, the music itself and, like the glowing, resplendent image of the wheat field on the album cover, it is radiant, inviting, and glorious.
The drone established at the start and unbroken throughout the track – though continually changing shape, texture, and timbre across its 30-minute span – becomes the field, the foundation from which Moore sets off. Across this field, Moore is playing against himself, but the playing is more an exploration of sounds he can wring from the strings of the saz than an opportunity to burnish his technical dexterity or indulge in noodling. It’s also an exploration of what the CSound makes of music as it’s played and fed straight back into its system. So like the opening attack that becomes a drone, the track in its entirety becomes a record of transformation on numerous levels and scales.
Recognizable strums continue to be heard as the piece progresses, but transforming echoes behind them eventually come forward to obscure and replace their source. Near the halfway point, something that sounds like wooden bells begin to ring (an indication of Moore’s artistry with manipulating sound) just before the saz returns in a fit of heated strumming. The entirety ascends and expands in a radiating crescendo. From that apex, the music falls back, slowly, in steady pulses and sighs, as it fades to rest, leaving you somewhere else entirely from where you began.
There’s a powerful emotional intensity to this piece, and when I listen to it and look at the shimmering field of wheat on the cover, it’s hard to not think of harvesting, of seasonal change, of nature’s cycles of death and rebirth, of how at risk all of those things are now. One of the many beauties and pleasures of this piece is how open it is, not only in terms of space and sound, but interpretation. Walk out into it and see what you find.