: rod cooper

Room40, 2004, RM406
http://www.room40.org

In Friction, sculptor, instrument builder and subterranean explorer Rod Cooper has taken some of his hand-built metal instruments and documented performances upon them. Here we have an artist intimately entwined with his inventions and the spaces they inhabit.

In Estuary Nocturne long bowed notes swell and overlap accompanied by a broad, complex and somewhat breathy harmonic spectrum. These dronal tones border on the edge of stability: punctuations of sharp plucking and some lesser dull knockings disturb their dark waters.

It is in the longest track, Stratum, that Cooper fully explores the possibilities of instrument, performance and space. Extending over 17 minutes it begins with machinic rattlings and vibrations, stretching from feverish rasping to gentle lulled tones. Before it ends Cooper has managed to coax, throttle and squeeze what seems to be every possible sound out of the instrument. The interplay between hard and soft, space and sound, performer and instrument, and what lies between the sounds themselves, is satisfying: what Cooper refers to as “comfort through dissonance”.

Cooper seems to be trying to bring to life some other that lies within his hand-forged instruments. At times an invocation, in some instances a “voice”, is released from his ferrous contraptions via rubbing, scraping, bowing, striking and plucking. The sonic matter is thick, extending into space, over time defining the instrument's materiality and the place in which it dwells. Mostly this definition forms the composition itself yet there is one track in particular, Mandrel, which employs variations of a 3-note motif of sharp attacks and extended decays paired with long, low buzzing notes. These 2 clusters build up a more familiar musical compositional approach than otherwise represented on the disk.

The acoustic spaces on each track seem to be similar. This has the advantage of highlighting the different qualities of instruments although notably different 'rooms' could have been an interesting addition knowing Cooper's penchant for alternative spaces, especially those of Melbourne's underground.

The overall subterranean feel of Friction and Cooper's ability to release characteristic sounds from his own intruments give the tracks a coherence and confidence only gained through experience. The watery cascade of notes delivered on the final track, Pearlite, is testament to this. This confidence also highlights the compositional structures developed over time from the capacities of each instrument. These are loosely adhered to allowing a revelatory discovery of sonic textures and intuitive percussion.

Dean Linguey

1 May 2006