Music Reviews from the Staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House


September 23, 2020
Harbors - Ellen Fullman & Theresa Wong
Label: Room40
Catalog #: RM4123
Country: Australia
Release Date: August 14, 2020
Media: lp or digital download entry entry

We had the pleasure of attending a performance by the duo of Ellen Fullman and Theresa Wong when they played at the nief-norf festival in the Arts and Architecture Building at the University of Tennesse in Knoxville on June 25, 2017. (Our review is here.) We very much enjoyed the collaboration between long-stringed instrument and cello. We wanted to hear more. We found an older recording, Through Glass Panes, which had one track featuring this duo. Last year, another duet between the long-stringed instrument and cello appeared, The Air Around Her, which featured not Ms. Wong on cello but Okkyung Lee. At the time we were struck by the difference that the accompanying cellist could have on the music generated in a duet with the long-stringed instrument. (The full review is here.) Our appetite for a full album of Ellen Fullman and Theresa Wong was further whetted.

Harbors is the just the album we have been waiting to hear since our exposure to the duo at neif-norf in 2017. There is in the collaborative exchange between Ms. Fullman and Ms. Wong both a simplicity and a complexity, neither of which can be extricated from the other. The simplicity can be found in the long drawing of the bow across the strings of the cello and the measured reverberations coaxed from the long-stringed instrument. The two musicians answer each other, reminiscient of the way a gull responds to the incoming tide or a solitary walker on the beach reacts to the horn of a ship hidden by the fog. This music paints a portrait of natural relationships in a manner that is intuitively appealing.

Of course, the complexity of the drone is manifested in the polyphonic tones of the long-stringed instrument and in the deftness of the musicians as they call out to each other. The tale that they are telling does not follow the conventional path of introduction, conflict, climax and resolution. Rather, in the three pieces on Harbors, these two women narrate a story of life, improvised and exploratory, by protagonists who enjoy an established familiarity but who remain capable of evoking warmth, surprise and wonder in each other.



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