Volume 2 of James Dashow’s series of works, Soundings in Pure Duration for electronic sounds, with and without instrumental soloists, includes the last four works in the series, composed between 2014 and 2020, and the re-release of his Bourges Magisterium prizewinning work “…at other times, the distances,” an earlier work from the 1990s. The general title of these pieces comes from the English translation of a phrase by Bergson (in The Creative Mind) where the philosopher was describing his notions about time and the profound human interaction with it. Unlike the original French, the English has the play on the word “sounding” which, in its double meaning related especially to time (duration), struck the composer as being a perfect description of what a musical work does.
All of the pieces here collected are originally for octophonic electronic sounds, except for the earlier “…at other times, the distances” which is a quadraphonic composition. On this DVD, the listener can find surround-sound (5.0) mixdowns as well as composer-prepared stereo mixdowns that have been spatially enhanced to approximate a wider audio field, consonant, somewhat, with the original spatial configuration—a configuration that, in concert, reveals itself to be fundamental to each work’s compositional conception. As Dashow has often written, controlling Movement IN Space and the Movement OF Space are now basic elements of his compositional approach, in functional collaboration with timbre, dynamics, and pitch/frequency structure. This latter aspect is realized using a rigorous, but not overly rigid, application of the composer’s Dyad System which offers Dashow the means to work within a time-varying complexity of multiple structural levels that correspond precisely to his unique way of hearing, i.e. his distinctly individual harmonies, lines, counterpoint and, above all, timbral conceptions. The pieces are in the order of a concert presentation, rather than chronological, encouraging the listener to listen to all of the pieces from track 1 to the end. Each piece with a soloist has its electronic timbral qualities chosen to enhance or contrast with the characteristics of the particular instrument. The pieces for electronic sounds alone are self-contained timbral-spatial constructions that elaborate their own kinds of sounds.
— Egidio Pozzi, Department of Humanistic Studies, University of Calabria, Italy