By Greg Cahill | From the March-April 2022 issue of Strings magazine
It’s a wild ride through time and space. On the second album in her Chaconne Project, a collection of contemporary chaconnes inspired by J.S. Bach’s iconic work, violinist and composer Pauline Kim Harris takes the listener into uncharted territory. The Grammy-winning artist—known for her work with the avant-punk duo String Noise and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra—performs solo acoustic violin while testing the boundaries of extended technique on four striking compositions by Yoon-Ji Lee, Elizabeth Hoffman, Annie Gosfield, and John King.
From the get-go, Lee’s “Shakonn” sets the tone. The hint of Bach quickly melts away beneath a torrent of stabbing staccato, sliding glissando, and haunting vocalization. The result is exhilarating. Hoffman’s “morsels” toys with an octave-leaping high-E that punctuates a wave of double- and triple-stops. Gosfield has long been inspired by the allure of industrial noise and electronics, especially the ethereal sounds of space craft and factory machinery: Her “Long Waves and Random Pulses” is built around a six-note figure from an Italian radio jamming device. It’s reminiscent of “Drifting Signals and Lost Satellites,” a groundbreaking 2004 work first recorded by cellist Joan Jeanrenaud. King’s nearly 15-minute “C-H-A-C-O-N-N-E,” written for Harris in 2013, deconstructs the form as it strips away the composition’s complex structure before resolving into an acrobatic dance of swirling notes. Harris has called this album “a reincarnation” of Bach’s oft-recorded Chaconne. It is modern to the core. “Each composer found their own personal connection to the Chaconne, giving new life to those select elements from the original work that resonated with them,” she writes in the liner notes. “Whether it be the bass line, counterpoint, the keys of D minor and D major, you will find a magical resemblance, evolved.”