At a recent Bargemusic CD release concert, Cornelius Dufallo described his solo record Journaling as the union of two journeys: one leading into past memories and reflections, and the other into unbounded imaginary worlds. The album marks a milestone for Dufallo’s three-year concert series of the same name (launched in 2009), spanning works composed by both the violinist and his peers. And whether Dufallo wanders in the past or tinkers with the future, he passionately revives the art of the one-man band.
“Violin Loop I” illustrates Dufallo’s uncanny self-reliance both in technical artistry and emotional power. A few curt, rapid notes begin the piece, recorded to form the first of many loops to come. While this sequence repeats, Dufallo delves into the second loop: several pungent plucks, spaced by tight bouts of silence. His sound grows increasingly intricate thereafter, each layer assuming a unique and bold identity. ”Violin Loop V” shows a different side of Dufallo’s craft, shrouded in softer textures and an ethereal aura.
Dufallo launched several world premieres in concert, notably Paul Brantley’s “Violon D’Ingres”. The title signifies “second calling” in French, referring to the neoclassical painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, whose love for the violin went largely unrecognized. Dufallo’s fiddling, however, paid Ingres poignant homage. Sharp spears of violin punctuated the underlying melody, countered by airy meanders and assertive twists. These nuances formed an aural pointillist painting, conjuring elaborate musical scenes with only a few phrases and notes. Though this track is not featured on Journaling, the Chinese folk-inspired “Four Fragments” takes a similar approach, jolting alive with every acerbic uprising.
Dufallo’s creativity turns even zestier on “Playlist One (Resonance)”, composed by pianist Vijay Iyer. Laced in “fiendishly difficult passages of harmonics,” the track undergoes erratic evolution, oscillating from pitchy whines to organic plucks. Part of its appeal lies in this slight angularity. But approximately five minutes in, Dufallo’s urgent tone gathers momentum until it transforms, conjuring the sound of bagpipes with startling accuracy.
At once, the violinist reveals a new dimension of his craft that transcends textural manipulation. Dufallo’s journey may be a solo endeavor, but it is anything but solitary. On his humble violin, he unites the past and present with undiscovered futures, forging a path of strident yet heartfelt innovation.