Polytopia: Music for Violin & Electronics

Polytopia: Music for Violin & Electronics

by Mari Kimura



Japanese-born expanded violinist Mari Kimura is a pioneer in the realm of technological interactivity in music and one of only a few violinists to take seriously the study of sub-harmonics, whole ranges of pitches outside the violin's usual compass that may be achieved through special bowing techniques. Prior to the release of Bridge's Polytopia, Kimura's work, already well known on the international concert scene, was under-represented on recordings; she had appeared only as a participant in improvisations and through her self-released disc The World Below G. With "Polytopia," Bridge finally provides listeners with a cross section of Kimura's varied streams of interest, from signal-processed pieces, which restate the live sounds she produces to "duets" with pre-recorded elements, computers, machines, and beyond. While on paper this may sound like a recipe for a "Metropolis"-like journey into the gaping jaws of a technological Moloch, conversely "Polytopia" is very fresh and challenging in a positive way and is not without a sense of personal warmth and emotional involvement. Make no mistake, though; Kimura's "Polytopia" is a dazzling display of virtuosic technique by a highly specialized and skilled performer -- sort of like a plugged-in Paganini for the digital age. The gauntlet is thrown down from the outset, where Kimura pilots her spaceship through a signal-processed piece by Jean-Claude Risset in which only Kimura is playing, yet a galactic orchestra seems to emerge, traveling along with her. Afterwards Kimura attains hyper-warp speed in Conlon Nancarrow's tricky "Toccata," where she is accompanied by a player piano. While this piece connects her to past American avant-garde tradition and the others represent an international/intergenerational focus, Kimura's own pieces, "Polytopia" and "GuitarBotana," seem the most effective in the program. Others seek to match Kimura's extraordinary abilities with their creative input; Kimura knows her own capabilities best and has the talent as a composer to make them take wing. There is additionally some incorporation of wonderfully old-fashioned violin techniques, including various kinds of portamento in Kimura's retinue; the interactive electronic element is so front and center that at times it's easy to miss the basic beauty of Kimura's violin playing, which is light, nimble, and free. This aspect of Kimura's artistry perhaps can be heard best in Frances White's "The Old Rose Reader," an atmospheric piece in which Kimura is a single element moving around in an electro-acoustic environment that includes a narration delivered by her husband. It is reminiscent to some extent of some of the more conceptually ambitious "Frippertronics"-styled efforts, though minus Robert Fripp and his guitar. Rock music is not forbidden territory in Kimura's universe; it is also referenced to some extent in Serbian-American composer Milica Paranosic's "ComeCryWithMe," which has as its fulcrum a descending figure that resembles the bass line in a Led Zeppelin tune. While none of the music here can be said to be "conservative," the most conventional sounding of the works here is "Axon" (2002) by Tania León, in which Kimura is heard in conjunction with samples drawn from textures belonging to other León compositions; the writing of the solo violin part seems steeped in a style familiar from the mid-twentieth century. The selection of pieces on "Polytopia" is excellently well chosen, and the great variety heard here helps keep the program moving forward. Bridge Records and Mari Kimura's "Polytopia" is a highly satisfying debut from a superlative artist who recognizes that the twenty-first century has turned a new page in the relationship between music and technology; she is utilizing all of her super powers to guarantee that her instrument -- the violin -- doesn't get left behind.

Product Details

Release Date: 09/18/2007
Label: Bridge
UPC: 0090404923623
catalogNumber: 9236


  1. Variants, for violin & signal processing
  2. Toccata for violin & piano
  3. Polytopia, for violin & interactive computer
  4. GuitarBotana, for violin & musical robot
  5. The Old Rose Reader, for violin & electronics
  6. ComeCryWithMe, for violin & electronics
  7. Submarine, for violin & signal processing
  8. Axon, for violin & interactive computer

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