Fuse Ensemble: The Music of Gina Biver
Gina Biver is a musical force of nature: electroacoustic composer, producer, electric guitarist and director of the Washington DC-based Fuse Ensemble she helped found 10 years ago. Although a busy composer of multimedia works – whether for film, kinetic sculptures, dance – the five works gathered here were written for the Fuse Ensemble to play, with the composer one of the two vocalists in Mirror (2012; the other is the late Colette Inez, whose poem ‘Empress in the Mirror’ was the inspiration for the work). Biver is also the guitarist in Girl, Walking (2014), an at times enchanting quartet for flute, electric guitar, bass and ‘found percussion’.
Biver’s brand of electroacoustic music leans stylistically more to crossover idioms than to the type created by, for example, Pierre Schaeffer, Nono or Stockhausen. As with these exemplars from an earlier generation, Biver’s music has a strong element of improvisation, a co creation with the performers from a pre set template. No Matter Where (2010) and Girl, Walking are fine examples of her idiom, though the combination in the latter of electric guitar and flute gives it the atmosphere of a 1970s film track. In the marimba solo We Meet Ourselves (2015), percussionist-dedicatee Scott Dean partners himself with a ‘triggered audio’ of pre-recorded samples. The Cellar Door is a duo inspired by Jung where the live cello and piano instrumentalists represent the conscious element, and the audio track (of a waterphone) the unconscious.
On a more negative note, Biver’s music relies overmuch on repetition. Ostinato patterns drive the music forwards but too often merely mark time rather than truly develop; similarly, her harmonic language is rather static and unadventurous. There is plenty to enjoy, with such well-prepared performances, but the overall impression is of a short-measure disc of works which outlast their material.