Disaster Amnesiac mentions this because these dynamics are well to the fore on Alan Sondheim's newest CD, Future Speed Future. As I read the self-penned liner notes for the disc, I often get a feeling of sheer terror as Alan mentions the psychic and physical pain that arises from his method for the songs collected therein. In his own words, the "...[F]ast as possible improvisation/not repeating/shape-riding sonic worlds..." are sources of discomfort as he performs them.
Thankfully for the listener, it's not so much raw pain as beauty that will be encountered from them. As his fingers do indeed skitter incredibly fast across the necks and bridges of acoustic guitars, sazs, oud, dutar and viola, one is treated to lovely micro-tonal phrases that fly around the perceptions like exotic butterflies or fast moving celluloid art. It always strikes Disaster Amnesiac that improvised music presents the listener not so much with songs to be sung along with but interior/exterior worlds that must be worked toward to be truly appreciated. Sondheim has spent decades working them in and out of his menagerie of stringed instruments, and on Future Speed Future he for the most part pushes the pedal to the metal, full speed ahead. Fingers fly across the frets and strings, and if one is paying attention, these acoustic sounds resonate in most delightful ways. Again, if one does the mental work, the aesthetic riches are there for the taking.
Alan's long time partner Azure Carter provides a bit of counterpart with vocals and lyrics on three tracks, as her approach is much more measured. It's almost as she Azure is reminding Alan that it's alright to take a breath; meanwhile, Alan plows forward, and these contrasts are stunning. Sondheim will not rest, and let's just hope that he finds ways to cope with the pace that he's chosen.
Back in June of 2018, Disaster Amnesiac got to spend a few delightful hours in Alan Sondheim's presence, and I left that encounter realizing that anyone who is interested in true Art and Creativity would benefit immensely from spending time with his straightforward and wide ranging insights. If one can't get out to his current home of Providence, one should grab a copy of Future Speed Future and start learning from him there. Can you keep up?