The Squid's Ear Magazine

Ryan, David (Crosby / Innocenti / Lash): Fields And Refrains (Aural Terrains)

A collection of three modified solo pieces and one collective performance with a minimalist aesthetic through compositions by David Ryan, performed by William Crosby on guitar, Luca Innocenti on church organ & Hammond organ and Dominic Lash on contrabass, each score allowing for interpretation and improvisation, particularly the final collaborative piece.

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product information:

Label: Aural Terrains
Catalog ID: ATN1648
Squidco Product Code: 32192

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2022
Country: UK / EU
Packaging: Jewel Case
Recorded at (1) Laurel Studios, in Walkern, UK, in 2021; (2) Church of San Francesco, in Pescia, Italy, in 2019; (3) Upper Perry Studios, in Bristol, UK, in 2020 (4) Various, UK, and Italy locations, in 2021.


David Ryan-composer

William Crosby-guitar

Luca Innocenti-church organ, Hammond organ

Dominic Lash-contrabass

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Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"Coming into its fifteenth year, Aural Terrains is still going strong. Fields and Refrains, a collection of three modified solo pieces and one collective performance, is a case in point.

All works on this album are compositions by David Ryan, who does not personally appear on any of the tracks except as an assistant to the organist on the second track, “Overlays”. The scores, or recorded and augmented “grounds” to which the musicians must respond, are relatively loose, intended to create, to paraphrase Ryan, a dialogue with the soloist. (For more on the composition and performance process for each piece, see Ryan’s illuminating liner notes.) The result is a largely quiet set of performances, underneath which simmers a near-constant restiveness. The listener may anticipate but can never really know what will come next: a single tone, a short and soft cascade of notes, a strum or a woody pluck.

The first track, “Fields and Refrains”, is the longest, clocking in at over 23 minutes. Ryan wrote the score specifically with guitarist William Crosby in mind. It begins with spacious, understated rubbing and thuds. One hears a few plucks here and there after the first few minutes, which slowly fall into tones and at times feint a slow, disjointed melody. The scraping slows, then stops, as the plucks and knocks come into play together. Gradually, this turns, as the title hints, somewhat pastoral. Crosby begins to stretch from the non-idiomatic sounds to more standard notes, albeit without really settling on anything conventional. And, about halfway through, the piece coheres. The notes come in tighter clusters. The scrapes bleed into high plucks which merge into chords and a soft ever-emergent sweet melodic backdrop.

“Overlay”, performed by Luca Innocenti on organ (with a hand or two from Ryan himself) on organ, follows. This one will especially appeal to listeners who indulge in wide-eyed explorations of what tones layered on tones layered on tones can do. Pitches range and pile and collide. The piece ends with crisp five-note scales. At times, it sounds as if an ensemble of strings, winds and reeds are playing. At others, it sounds as if someone is really having a go at possibilities for elongation and perception-warping drones. That seems to be much of the point. This is maybe the least fluttery but most propulsive of the three solos captured here.

“Sanjo”, the next track, features Dominic Lash on bass and it is a minimalist, understated scorcher. It swings between slow and low arco and high sparse pizzicato. Lash is a musician of fastidious technique and of ideas. He avoids full melody in favor of full sounds, tonal decay, bends and frictions and atonal structures. The result is sad at times, as in when Lash approaches tuneful phrases, and is mysterious at others, most often when he avoids them. Always, however, the result is captivating. A fine show of what one can do with a contrabass, some modified playback and a lot of patience.

The final piece is a group effort and, at four minutes and twenty seconds, is the shortest piece by far. It is based on a recently reworked score, based on a 2007 work, which was inspired by the Edgar Allen Poe story Ligeia. As the most active piece, as well, and the only collaboration among all three musicians and the composer, “Ligeia 221” is a fitting, if brief culmination. Crosby, Innocenti and Lash each contribute long tones. Lash and Crosby also throw in some pizzicato and strumming that breaks up any potential monotony. In the end, these three musicians create a fuller sound — though not necessarily vision — than each achieved alone and work remarkably well towards a singular aesthetic through a range of techniques and sounds. Much of this could also be said of this entire album, which is a statement of some of the territory Aural Terrains has covered recently, as well as where acoustic-improv — more entrenched in new music than new thing — stands today."-Nick Ostrum, The Squid's Ear

This album has been reviewed on our magazine:

The Squid
The Squid's Ear!

Artist Biographies

"David Ryan is a visual artist and writer based in London and Cambridge, who is also actively involved in contemporary music. He studied at Liverpool and Coventry Polytechnics, and also on a travelling German Scholarship to Hamburg, Lubeck and Berlin. His extensive writing on art and music includes pieces on Jessica Stockholder, Bernard Frize, John Riddy, Shirley Kaneda, Fabian Marcaccio, Franz Ackermann, David Reed, Katherina Grosse, Earle Brown, John Cage, Morton Feldman, Christian Wolff, Helmut Lachenmann and Jonathan Lasker for various art publications including Modern Painters, Dissonanz in Switzerland, Leonardo Music Journal, San Francisco, Art Papers USA, Contemporary Visual Arts, Contemporary, London, Artpress, Paris, and Tempo, and Art Monthly, London. Catalogue contributions include Hybrids for Tate Liverpool, and Jessica Stockholder/Fabian Marcaccio for Sammlung Goetz, Munich. He has given lectures on abstract painting including venues such as the UNAM (National University of Mexico), Mexico, Warwick Arts Centre, Forum Konkrete Kunst, Erfurt, Germany, Dahl Gallery, Lucerne, Switzerland, and Tate Liverpool, UK. His publication Talking Painting: Dialogues with 12 Contemporary Abstract Painters (2002) is published by Routledge. He has lectured at Christies, Sothebys, and is currently reader in Fine Art at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge. He has exhibited at the Whitechapel Gallery (Open Exhibition), London, British Abstract Painters, Flowers West, Los Angeles, USA; Painting and Time at the Nunnery Gallery, London, British Abstract Painting 2001 at Flowers East, London, Surface Connections, Holden Gallery Manchester, Illuminate at Jasmine Studios, Hammersmith, London, Flux at London Bridge Tunnels, On the Way to Things at Churchill College, Cambridge, Lines of Enquiry at Kettles Yard, Cambridge, and Transfer at Keith Talent gallery, London.

As a performer Ryan has also been actively involved in contemporary music and performed for Danish Radio; Huddersfield International Contemporary Music Festival; New Music Marathon, Northwestern University, Chicago; The Barbican Art Centre, London (Cage Uncaged, 2004), Line-Point-Line, Los Angeles, and is Director of Dal Niente Projects which presents neglected modernist and contemporary experimental works in London. He has also collaborated with numerous improvising musicians such as John Edwards, John Butcher, Eddie Prevost and numerous others, and has a longstanding duo with clarinetist Ian Mitchell. Italian composer Nicola Sani collaborated on Non tutte ie 'opera' for three instrumentalists and sound projection in October 2003, presenting a three-part video projection. Other collaborations with Sani include AchaB 3 at the 2006 Synthese Festival, Bourges France (a 3 screen video). He has also composed Prelude/Postlude 2, part of Sonic Illuminations presented at the BFI, London in 2008. Ryan has had numerous awards including Arts Council of England, Jazz Services, Britten-Pears; Holst and Hinrichsen Foundations; Sonora, Rome, as well as Italian and American Government grants. He was presented at the 2008 Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival with Nicola Sani's AchaB in a new version. His recent films include Knots and Fields (New Music at Darmstadt - with interviews with Pierre Boulez and Brian Ferneyhough), a collaboration directed by Andrew Chesher, and Via di San Teodoro 8 (2010 -11). Recent exhibitions and screenings include Crossing Abstraction, 2009 at the Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethianen, Berlin; and screenings at Berlin Konzerthaus, 2011; International Music Institute, Darmstadt; Viewfinder, Seoul, Korea, 2011; Italian Cultural Institutes, London and Stockholm, De la Warr Pavillion, 2010/11, and All Frontiers Festival, Monfalcone, Italy 2011, and screenings scheduled for Brussels and New York in 2012."

-David Ryan Website (

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"William Crosby is a composer and musician from the UK. His artistic practice incorporates guitar playing (electric and acoustic), compositions, sound works, film, performance, text, installation, and thematically considers ecologies in their various forms, from the micro-ecologies of day-to-day interactions and archives, to posthuman sound practice and larger issues around climate emergency. He is a member of the video/performance ensemble Opera Aperta, and art/geology group MUD Collective, and also teaches improvisation/sound art as a visiting lecturer at University of the Arts, London."

- (Aural Terrains)

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"Luca Innocenti was born in Florence and resides in Italy. He studied piano and organ at La Spezia Conservatory and formed a broad repertoire ranging from baroque to contemporary music, including Scarlatti, Mozart, Clementi, Bach, Schubert, Debussy, Prokovief, Ligeti, Gulda and Kapustin. He has participated in master classes with international pianists such as, for example, Bruno Canino, and more recently as a conductor has performed the First Symphony by Schumann, the Stabat Mater by Rossini, amongst many other symphonic works."

-Aural Terrains (

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"Born Cambridge, England, in January 1980; played bass guitar since 1994; studied with Hugh Boyd and Pascha Milner and at Basstech (London) with Rob Burns, Terry Gregory and others. Played double bass since 2001; basically self taught, with grateful thanks to Simon H. Fell. First class BA in English Literature from Oxford University (2002). Received MA Composition from Oxford Brookes University in 2003, having studied with Paul Whitty, Ray Lee and others. Received PhD from Brunel University in 2010, having studied the work of Derek Bailey, Helmut Lachenmann and JH Prynne and been supervised by Richard Barrett and John Croft."

-Dominic Lash Website (

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Track Listing:

1. Fields And Refrains (2019/20) 23:37

2. Ligeia (2007/2021) 18:26

3. Field And Refrains (2021) 18:09

4. Overlays (2019) 4:20

Related Categories of Interest:

Compositional Forms
Improvised Music
European Improvisation, Composition and Experimental Forms
Trio Recordings
Solo Artist Recordings
Collective Free Improvsation
New in Compositional Music
New in Improvised Music
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