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The Dom Minasi String Quartet: Dissonance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

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Confounding the stereotype of the string quartet in Dissonance Makes The Heart Grow Fonder, guitarist Dom Minasi assembled a group of string players to become the short version of a fifteen person ensemble, which recorded Minasi’s own The Vampire’s Revenge in 2005. Along with Minasi, the quartet includes Jason Kao Hwang on violin, Tomas Ulrich on cello, and Ken Filiano on bass.

The album consists of seven textural events, where no one instrument leads the group at any one time, even though one of the four might be heard in the front of the sound or in solo form. At these points, an instrument is lifting itself out of the group motives, as if to breathe, and plunging in again to coincide with the intensely continuous motion of the other strings. Minasi composed the music; the themes are readily identifiable. In the liner notes, he explains that he wanted to leave room for the musicians to improvise. The improvisations fit seamlessly within the body of the compositions.

A timbral role is filled by each instrument, whose personality is conveyed in the way it is played. The sound of each instrument rises, falls and goes forward, stretching out transparent layers through which three or less musical lines can be heard. Each musician devotes himself to the expressiveness of his instrument as perceived in Hwang’s strident staccato phrasings; Filiano’s rhythmic pizzicatos and broad, substantial bowing; Ulrich’s ripped glissandos, bow scrapes and percussive wrangling of the cello; and Minasi’s distinctive pizzicato interplay with his group. This record’s sonic richness, often hinting at synchrony, is simply arresting. The all-inclusive sound eludes any kind of separation through analytic scrutiny. The musicians’ control of their instruments is baffling; their economic delivery is nothing less than awe-inspiring.

Originally Published