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CD Feature/ Nick Didkovsky: "Tube Bow Mouth String"

img  Tobias

Eccentricity and painstakingly particular compositions, often written to the very extent as to when a pedal has to be used, is a characteristic of this work by Nick Didkovsky called 'Tube Mouth Bow String'. This veteran of music, publicly active at least since 1983, when he founded the group 'Doctor Nerve', has gathered plenty of experience in his field, cultivating not only the guitar play but also doing some great pioneer work as a music software programmer and user. This led to Nick's work as a music software composition teacher at NYU.

Anyway, next to melting his guitar and computer work with the Sirius String Quartet, consisting of Meg Okura and Gregor Huebner, violin, Ron Lawrence, viola and Dave Edgar, cello, a new brand of sound has been created, featured impressively on this CD. (Special guests are Barbara Benary and Chung Hu.) But his ingenious attempt to reach new musical shores has not stopped with his programming. He introduces a new and exciting system of shaping and creating sound. The device is called 'talkbox'. The sound each musician is producing with his instrument is sent through a plastic tube back into their mouths, and by voicing vowels and changing the shape of their mouth the sound is effectively altered.

The use of pedals lets the sound go up or down an octave, and, of course, the instrument has to be played. Also, as on the track 'Tube Mouth Bow String', Nick dictated a specific use of all three elements, vowel forming, use of pedal and use of instruments. This of course hands the musician a difficult task, especially with live performances.
Besides all this, Nick Didkovsky leaves little to improvisation. In fact, there is some kind of musical freedom on 'What Sheep Herd', but as the title indicates, the herd has to react to the dictation provided by the outlines and limits the computer software provides. Generally changing loops have to be brought back to the underlying melody, sooner or later and thus the herd is kept into the boundaries of its movement as a big and single unit.

Having talked about the narrow boundaries of these compositions enough - there could be so much said about this that it surely would disrupt the boundaries of this review - I have to get to another area, which seems at least as important to me: What do these well constructed sounds, reminding me in their perfectly set up compositions of the way classical masters went about their work, mean to me upon hearing them?

Here I followed, at least to a certain degree, the advice printed on the back of the little booklet that accompanies the CD: 'Listen to this record carefully, reasonably loud, and in one sitting. Open your windows so your neighbors can hear it, too.' Well, I kept those windows shut since I listened around midnight. But I did heed the rest of the advice.
What attracted my attention first was the absence of rhythm. Wait, that's not entirely true, since the mainly drone driven sounds did in some way produce a certain wave movement by swelling up and down in clearly defined time intervals. It felt to me like hearing an oceans sound, hearing waves wash to a shore in time defying deferment. These musical loops seemed to have an 'Einsteinian' quality, mocking the true value of time and speed and positioning me into a place outside the real world. There I could listen, unbiased and no longer dependent on the rules of physics.

This music did nothing for me to kick my emotions to an exciting degree, into kind of an enthusiastic mindset. But it's quality touched me somewhere else, deep down in an area seldom explored: It generated a feeling of security, of harmony, when warm and unaggressive sounds, sometimes slightly drifting out of tune and tact always found their way back to the great plan, back home, as I like to call it.

This music may indeed mark a milestone for future compositions. At the very least, it shows a way of retrieving a sense of the world which adapts in a great way to its ever changing challenges. Of course, its not designed to function as a valve to let go of aggression and rage accumulated in the hectic and stressful life of the 21st century. It's designed to look behind the curtain of our own minds and souls, dig into the true roots of our independent and unique existence. One just has to allow the floodgates being opened and let this musical ocean flood you with its exploring sounds. Don't be afraid, you will not drown!

By Fred Wheeler

Homepage: Nick Didkovsky with Doktor Nerve
Homepage: Pogus Productions

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