With his embrace of open space and strategic use of silence, trombonist, composer, and sonic architect Brett Sroka has honed an inviting improvisation-laced sound in his trio Ergo, an electro-acoustic group approach that often reveals astonishing, strangely beautiful and unexpected realms. What’s not surprising about Ergo is discovering Sroka’s affinity for Emily Dickinson, the poet whose radical concision and visionary deployment of silence is unmatched in the English language. Featuring drummer Shawn Baltazor and Sam Harris on piano, prepared piano and Fender Rhodes, As subtle as tomorrow captures the latest evolution of Sroka’s singular vision and is based on a brief and typically cryptic Dickinson verse.
A seven-piece suite in which overlapping melodies, motifs and improvisations organically evolve into and out of the music’s electronic elements, As subtle as tomorrow takes its name from a Dickinson poem that can be reconstructed from the fragments and phrases that Sroka borrowed as tune titles. Evocative and mysterious, playful and spiritually charged as a Zen koan, the music is inspired by the stark intensity and hymn-like clarity with which Dickinson considers and transcends thoughts of time and destiny.
Steeped in jazz and inspired by artists from Stockhausen, Xenakis, and Terry Riley to Sigur Ros and Aphex Twin, Sroka infuses Ergo’s music with an improvisational ethos. Every acoustic and electronic sound takes place in real time, created as the trio plays together. The experience of performing the music in concert deeply informed the suite’s development, and the music unfolds with its own interior logic.
In something of a “chicken and egg” approach, Sroka composed the themes on paper in conjunction with designing a Max/MSP software instrument to sample and process them. Under Sroka’s direction the trio is devoted to exploring the push and pull between structure and freedom, density and spaciousness, and electronic and acoustic timbres.
One can see Ergo’s transparent sound as a conscious reaction to the prevalence of frenetic, sonically dense music being created by some of Sroka’s contemporaries. “There’s something that appeals to me about space and silence and attractive melodies,” he says. “I’m interested in ambient music, which led to Arvo Pärt and John Cage and patient listening music that incorporates a lot of silence.”
releases February 5, 2016
Brett Sroka - trombone, computer
Sam Harris - piano, prepared-piano, Rhodes electric piano
Shawn Baltazor - drums