Joseph M. Colombo’s "I watch the fire as the days echo away" is a sonic experience that emerges the listener in an apocalyptic sound world in which they have no control and no other option but to observe as the scene around them is set aflame and envelopes them in its destruction. The first movement, I watch the fire…, opens with relentless pulsing polyrhythmic percussion that is shortly joined by a heavily distorted electric guitar processed through omnipresent feedback. The bleeding, raw energy of the guitar creates a palpable friction that energizes the aggressive soundscape. At first, the music seems extremely jarring, but it slowly begins to consume the listener in its visceral texture, washing over them like a wave in a violent storm. Soon the piece begins to completely unravel in a swirl of percussion and screaming guitar distortion and feedback, forcing the listener to surrender themselves to the beautiful chaotic wash. Its sound swirls around building energy and tension until it bursts into nothing more than smoldering remains and wisps of smoke.
One crucial component of this work that is not readily apparent upon listening is the design of the feedback used by the guitarist in the first movement. In the spirit of the tradition of graphic scores, Colombo uses four visually striking textural images as guidelines for the performer to design a feedback sound that they feel is characteristic of each image. This allows for many different interpretations of the work, and since live feedback is so unpredictable, every performance of the work will be different.
The second movement, …as the days echo away, is a panoramic scene of the aftermath of the first movement in which the music floats and time stands still. The movement begins with a drone that is reminiscent of a steady flurry of wind in a barren landscape. Pure, unaffected guitar and vibraphone then layer delicate, climbing phrases together over sparse percussive elements that create an image of smoke rising and time passing. Here, the listener takes on a more reflective observational role in which they are not only an observer of their current place, but also time: past, present, and future.
- Mario Godoy
released April 22, 2016
Composer: Joseph M. Colombo
Performer: The Living Earth Show