The Bass as Violin / The String Quartet as Sequencer (MP3)

Listening to Jason Charney's "Ocean Body"

The string quartet “Ocean Body,” composed by Jason Charney, is by no particular means electronic. Heard in a rendition recorded live by the Fifth House Ensemble at the Ravinia Festival last month, however, it displays numerous elements that make it something of a sonic fellow traveler. There is its modest pace, which posits it in a meditative sphere. There is its grid-like metric system, which aligns it with step sequencers. There is the way it builds steadily, a composition-by-accrual approach that suggests a method not unlike that of the sampler. There is the attention to the texture of the instruments, the violin and viola in particular. And yes, that is violin singular. Beyond its intricate internal maneuvers, which become apparent as the work proceeds, “Ocean Body” has an additional distinguishing characteristic, which is that Charney directs the quartet to replace one of its traditional two violins with a bass, played here by Kyle Wescott. The result is a rich sense of grounding.

Track originally posted for free download at More on Charney, who participated in several of the early Disquiet Junto projects and who is based in Lawrence, Kansas, at More on Fifth House at More on the Ravinia Festival at

And here, as a bonus, is video of Charney peforming his work “Compass” (for iPhone and Max/MSP) at an Apple Store:

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