Rrose has found her own niche in the American techno underground. Her hypnotic tracks incorporate ideas from ambient and minimalist music as prominently as they do the history of dance music, operating in the same fruitful cross-section between techno and the abstract as many other Further Records releases. Rrose’s debt to experimental music has never been more obvious than on September 20, 2012, when he performed James Tenney’s “Having Never Written A Note For Percussion” live in Washington, DC. The simple yet colossal piece is one of that American composer’s most famous works, requiring the performer to play one percussive instrument constantly, taking it from the quietest point to the loudest and back again. Done well, it’s a fascinating exploration of tone, volume and decay, and a showcase for drone music’s unusually transportive powers.
“Never Having Written A Note For Percussion” has always been a personal favourite of Rrose’s. He was struck with the inspiration to try it out after touring a disused trolley tunnel beneath downtown DC, where the possibilities of “seemingly endless and unpredictable reverberations” seemed like the perfect environment for Tenney’s composition. He made a 32-inch gong played with two mallets the central device of his performance, creating a towering leviathan of sound capable of the softest highs and the deepest lows. It’s a vastness that comes across especially well on the live recording of that 2012 performance, a breathtaking 30 minutes that seems daunting at first but moves with a grace as easy as breathing in and out.
What makes Rrose’s take almost definitive is not only does he stretch out the piece to 30 minutes beyond its usual 8-12 minute duration, but even more importantly she offers two versions made in two very different settings. The A-side of the 12-inch features a performance recorded in a studio during his practice sessions. Dry and mic’d up close, its almost stuffy quality is the direct opposite of the live version, like it’s coming from inside your head where the live-recording B-side surrounds you with the booming sound of the gong. That duality makes for a valuable insight into the power of Tenney’s original composition and its wide-open potential for interpretation. “Never Having Written A Note For Percussion” is a powerful study not only in minimalist composition but the importance of the room and environment that a performance, or just pure sound, takes place in, and a potent example of the kind of experimental tendencies that make Rrose one of techno’s more fascinating figures.