Boomkat Product Review:
American Lament performed by Liesa Van der Aa and Tom Pauwels.
"With Folksong Distortions, Pauwels and Van der Aa create a journey of lament through the soul of times gone by. Their radical renditions of works by Larry Polansky and Christopher Trapanido not distort the more upbeat rhythm and tradition of folk songs, but rather reveal and highlight the essence of hard lives, imposed choices - choices that were illusions in the first place - and the difficult times and conditions they have always depicted.
Christopher Trapani arranged two classics from the U.S. South, reimagining folk songs with microtones, improvisation, and electronic effects. The work, developed in collaboration with Tom Pauwels and Liesa Van der Aa, was originally made and featured on ICTUS' American Lament programme. The duo was given considerable room for improvisation and interpretation in the process. The first song, 'Wayfaring Stranger', is a well-known folk/gospel melody in A minor. The lyrics contrast an aimless journey through a harsh, hostile world, with the Christian promise of heaven as a 'home' and reunion with lost loved ones. The second song, 'Freight Train', was written by Elizabeth Cotten, a left-handed guitarist who held her guitar upside down, resulting in a very recognisable strumming style.
Sweet Betsy from Pike and Eskimo Lullaby are taken from Larry Polansky's 2005 'Songs and Toads', a five-section piece that consists of three settings of American folk songs and two computer-composed pieces. The work was originally written for guitar, more specifically for the national steel guitar, refretted in a specific intonation designed by Lou Harrison. Each piece explores a different guitar tuning. A significant intervention to the original work is made to accommodate Liesa Van der Aa's violin with effect pedals, opening to an epic re-reading of the work as conceived by the American composer Larry Polansky. What this set-up enables is a melancholy, slow-paced approach that quite radically opposes the more upbeat and joyful nature of the folk songs."