I don’t know that I have enough superlatives in my vocabulary to adequately express my admiration for Angel Bat Dawid. A defining musical moment in 2020 was from her live recording with The Brothahood on International Anthem on “Black Family” when you can practically feel her entire being transcending, bellowing out, “Affirm my family! Affirm my family!” It’s a transformational moment from a transformational artist, and the experience of hearing it for the first time in the thick of the year that was will stick with me for a long, long time.
Dawid’s entry into the Longform Editions canon has quickly become the benchmark for all others in the series. In describing the piece, she states, “I really want folks to inhale and exhale and then go on a ride of different sounds. Breathe into your ears…they need air too.” Harkening Etudes is comprised of three connected pieces, each with a different time signature designed to focus and alter your breathing while pulling you deeper into the cosmic space.
After a few minutes of hypnotic, flowing clarinet and piano, music that feels pulled from another moment in time, the curtain drops and we’re left with a computerized voice beckoning, “Inhale. Exhale. One. Inhale. Exhale. Two,” and so on. Everything fits together with her clarinet quietly hollering a lonely song underneath the voice and rattling, water-like percussive sounds adding to the constant backdrop. As the piano and clarinet duet picks back up after each break, your ears and your heart have opened just a little bit more, ready to let a little more light in; ready to let the music run through your blood.
The subtle shifts in time signature don’t hit you until that last section at 6/8, when you realize Angel Bat Dawid’s guiding hand has been pushing you further and further into the sonic mirth with fuse lit and now has you ready to explode. It’s exhilarating to find yourself enchanted by this feeling, by this need to expand your consciousness and just freaking move. Harkening Etudes is a mini-masterpiece.