Review: Dan O’Connor – IN/EX

a0225572314_16Every time a breath passes through the trumpet, something different happens. Often the air will pass through effortlessly. At other points, it splutters and dies as the mouth seals shut, or drags a squeal of brass resonance along with it, or cuts out to form glottalstops of exhalation. Sometimes, it strikes upon a bizarre tension between states, teetering dangerously between two notes like a tightrope walker losing balance, or harmonising with itself as separate strands of breath enact two potential pathways simultaneously. IN/EX is an ode to micro-variables that affect the breath’s journey from the player to the trumpet bell; some of which can be deftly controlled, others of which arise from exact orchestrations of air pressure, tongue positioning, mouth shape, air temperature, instrument condition…in other words, “circumstance”.

It’s so simple. 17 tracks, most of which fall under the one-minute mark. Many of these pieces trace the narrative of a single breath, undergoing dramatic transformations over the duration of one lung deflation: stutters of staccato are flecked with the tap of trumpet keys, followed by abrupt gasps that resemble a radio coughing up dead air, concluding with a solemn fadeout as the breath runs dry. Only occasionally does O’Connor tip toward utilising the trumpet in a conventional sense; the eleventh track features a brief flourish of notes that rises out of a spluttering false start, which are promptly choked out before they can evolve into anything more elaborate. In some senses IN/EX is a thoroughly virtuosic work, parading the vast possibilities presented by various configurations of the breath and the mouth. But it’s also an homage to instrumental chaos; a remark on the futility of musical mastery, where the innumerable factors affecting instrument timbre make it impossible for the player to assume absolute control. It’s a simple and chaotic little release.