Robert Dick & Ursel Schlicht: Photosphere

Words and Photography ©Laurence Svirchev

Lapis lazuli is a gem stone whose intensity entrances the eye and seduces the mind into a state of heightened awareness. The intensity of the blue’s specular reflections transmits powerful forces, potent stuff eligible for assimilation by an attentive soul. The diffuse reflections from the golden specks that glitter from within the gem provide contrasts that give a peception of depth to the stone, even though the surface is ground to smoothness.

And so it is with Photosphere’s five compositions, music in which Robert Dick (flutes) and Ursel Schlicht (piano and prepared piano) create Zen-like introspections

Indeed, “Lapis Blues” is the title of the first composition, the form of which is a conjuncture of Korean court and American blues music forms and feelings. The opening is regal, slow-paced and relatively simple, with Dick stating the melody and Schlicht providing percussive bass chords that lend drama to the song. The devices of letting notes decay before elaborating the next phrases enhances the drama that continues throughout the composition.

“Piece in Gamelan Style” is a solo for Dick, a meditative composition based on a simple melody with complex harmonic variations. Dick is quoted in the liner notes as “holding low notes and playing scales above them.” In this piece I heard at one point sea-birds calling in the overtones, at other times, there were two distinct simultaneous melodies, and at still another there were even fragments of three melodies.

In the case of the flutes, Dick uses multiple microphones to catch the winds of multi-phonics soaring through his flutes. Schlict is adept not only at producing ethereal sounds by de-tuning segments of the piano but she also adroitly uses of small percussion instruments riding the strings. The illusion is thereby lent that there are more than two musicians present and the quality of these devices make a listener feel as if they are living inside the instruments. Much has been made in the jazz literature of Schlicht’s and Dick’s command of technique, but this commentator found thorough repeated listenings a music that I would gladly return to again for emotional provocations.

Nemu Records 002

Originally Published: 2002

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