Rusty Banks has been working with NakedEye Ensemble since 2010. Collaborations with Rusty include, among other works, two commissions: Babbling Tower-to-Tower (2010) for toy piano (winner of the 2011 Toy Piano Composition Competition in NYC) and Candy Jones (2013), a theatre work for soprano, guitar and piano. A third commission for full ensemble, Surface Tensions, scored for flute, clarinet, saxophone, cello, e.guitar, bass, piano, and percussion.will be premiered in our upcoming concert on May 11.
Surface Tensions can be heard in many different ways. Its sounds are images in motion. The scratching rhythms on piano and guitar strings evolve into hocketing among the eight instruments; tension builds up like hot, bubbling lava; and, inevitably, primordial pulse slowly and decisively gives way to a rocking, intense climax.
"Surface Tensions deals with sonic viscosity. The piece begins very quietly, with scratching sounds on the piano, then the bass, then the guitar. The vibraphone enters with a clear, hard pitch. This vibraphone’s note is encased in the sounds of the clarinet, guitar, and cello. As the vibraphone moves through other notes, it “pulls” the other instruments along in a kind of loose cohesion. In motion, the focus blurs. When the line hesitates the sounds re-settle around the note.
This gelatinous structure develops fissures via high jabs from the piano and vibraphone. The harder sounds continue to expand against the gooier sounds, sometimes breaking through with fragments of lush piano or luxurious cello. But each time it seems these softer sentiments will take root the piece is pulled back into pointillistic tug-of-wars.
Five or so minutes into the piece, a clearer version of the theme finds itself in the piano, but still trapped in a cocoon of other instruments. This is answered with a presentation in the cello and the piece retreats back into the quiet, scratching sounds. At last, with a running start, the piece is fully unleashed in a powerful finish" – Rusty Banks