Alex Cunningham “As Slow as the Stream”

It’s been a banner year for experimental violin music. One of my favorite releases of the year so far – gabby fluke-mogul’s Threshold – takes the instrument into uncharted territory, but this new joint from Alex Cunningham takes a totally different path while leaving a similarly heavy impression. As Slow as the Stream is a single 33-minute improvised excursion that moves with such speed and with such presence that it ends up becoming a diamond-encrusted claustrophobic cavern with no room to move.

Cunningham is deft, racing across the fingerboard like a hummingbird finding a secret, untouched flower garden. Urgency and excitement burn through the piece, lighting up the room with sonic force. It’s music that commands attention, Cunningham shifting gears with ease and playfully winding the track around itself like an ouroboros playing pranks. Repetitive sequences go supernova, glowing with surprise harmony and unbound fervor. 

So many passages here have an angular melodic underbelly that’s hypnotizing. It reminds me of Ted Byrnes’ Moving My Body Through Space (also on Arkeen) in the sense that the rapid-fire, nonstop madness becomes paradoxically meditative. The overwhelming, maximal nature of Cunningham’s piece, which had a single constraint of “no use of space,” is enveloping. Howling resonance screeches out from Cunningham’s bow. It becomes effervescent as if Henry Flynt was hammering that fiddle with sandbags full of stardust. As Slow as the Stream is one hell of a trip.

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