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David Darling and
Jane Buttars

Released: 2013

David’s Grammy-winning cello and Jane’s expressive piano connect deeply to create these moving duets, improvised at the moment of recording. Lyrical, meditative, energetic contemporary classical, and India-modal pieces with inventiveness and artistry.

Through intense listening and uncanny intuition, David and Jane spontaneously intertwine their melodies and rhythms into cohesive pieces that come alive with magical immediacy. David's soulful cello and Jane's warm acoustic piano tone blend with breathtaking beauty, and their shared sense of timing is exceptional. Both musicians reveal imaginative moods and tone qualities with their instruments---peaceful and playful, dramatic and virtuosic, with moments suspended in time.

These improvisations were recorded in two sessions, without any previously composed chord charts or rehearsals.



Most musicians bring life to a page of musical notes and try to make it sound fresh and in the moment. Pianist Jane Buttars and cellist David Darling improvise their music — moment by moment. In their first album together, Tympanum, the listener gets to sit in on their exciting moments of creation. Each piece is a journey, imagined and created step by exciting step. Do not expect to listen to their improvisations while you are doing something else. Their focus is so intense that it snatches you and demands your full attention.

Each of the 14 selections takes a different mood journey. Sometimes persistent but unexpected rhythms bubble up to the surface and fairly bid the listener to get out of a chair and MOVE for heaven’s sake. Or gentle swaying lifts your spirits, like a high swing, and then subsides into still calm.  They are not limited to major, minor or modal; they can play for two minutes in the key of silence.

How to compare it? Maybe to say, think of combining the energy of jazz improv plus the adventuresomeness of Poulenc, plus the whimsy of e.e. cummings, But keep in mind that this is a duo of classical musicians.

I can envision several important uses for Tympanum, beyond listening for delight. These improvisations fairly beg to be danced to — by those who do “contact improv” or those who choreograph. They could work wonderfully as part of a worship service, to introduce or follow a psalm or meditation that fits the particular mood. Creative dance teachers and nursery school teachers– here is a gold mine.

Mostly, though, I just want to sit in my rocking chair, look out the window and be taken on one journey of imagination after another, each moment new.

---Barbara Figge Fox, Arts Reviewer

This is an extraordinary document - of the realities, the possibilities, the challenges, the achievements of improvisation.  And, in this case, the truly extraordinary achievements of duet improvisation.  A motif is offered and a conversation ensues:  with care and conflict and camaraderie a real piece happens in real time.  Sometimes it is playful, sometimes thoughtful, sometimes heartbreaking.  Other times one voice offers itself as an accompaniment, inviting the other to chisel - or stream - a melody.  Then they change roles.  The intimacy of these two voices/instruments is breathtaking.  Anything can happen.  And does.  And everything that happens is musically valid.  Incredible.

Sometimes I just allow the sounds to make their own picture in musical space, which they then permit me to enter.   The purest musical pleasure.  Thanks for a wonderful and illuminating experience.

--Anne Farber, Director, The Dalcroze School, NY City


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More Reviews

If "Varanasi in Dreams" were the only piece on this CD, it would still be worth having! The music is stunning throughout, but that one improvisation has me enthralled. Rich and dark and deep, seductive, trance-inducing, its spell lingers long after the last note has died away.

--Tari P., environmental conservationist

Your CD is truly an inspiration to listen to, and I’ve listened to it many times.  What strikes me the most is the sense of freedom in the music.  The freedom to play whatever you wanted, unafraid of breaking the rules.  Bold.  Coming totally from your heart.  You were not in any box, for sure; that was really refreshing.

-- Lee Berentsen, pianist

This CD is a real treat and a great artistic achievement. Imagine creating duets out of nothing but musical intelligence!---and the sustained yearning to listen always and closely to the other player, in the actual ongoing process of original making! From the haunting and shimmering “County Clare” to the jaunty “Uptown Strut,” you will find much probing of different moods, each of them intensely explored in compacted scope.

This music shows true ensemble work at its most essential. The pieces are models for music-making. What kinds of rhythms and motifs ask for what kinds of answers to keep the interaction going? You can’t imagine the kind of organic thinking that has gone into these inventions until you try doing something comparable. No one’s reading notes, so be prepared to be thrilled by spot-on unisons and exceptional chords!

Darling’s bowing and tone are very special (I really like “Horizons” here); so also, Buttars’ varieties of touch at the keyboard, especially in the gorgeous “Lament of the Princess.”

Both players give each other enough room for virtuosic moments, but the meditative parts are equally dramatic in their depth of musical range.
This new music, surprising and energizing, created in the very moment, is absolutely new and unrepeatable. But the duo is a natural: let’s have more, more!

--Daniel A. Harris, poet, Pushcart Award nominee

Between the performers, Jane Butters and David Darling, there is a deep sense of listening and great communication. They both dance through their music in a very creative way. I found this recording to be delightful, touching and very unique, I highly recommend it.

--Josee Allard, pianist, vocalist, teacher

Tympanum was recorded live, and contains “in the moment” dramatic duet improvisations by pianist Jane Buttars and cellist David Darling. Their melodies intertwine as they listen deeply through sound and silence. From dancing staccato rhythms to smooth melodic lines, both musicians express through the tones and colors of their instruments. They match or compliment one another in intensity, dynamics, textures, melodies, phrasing and surprises, creating one sound. Both are masters in improvisation. This high level of listening is guided through pure inspiration, the sounds, intuition and spirit as they play in synch with no pre-conceived idea. You hear the beauty in their hearts as they take you on a journey with a range of emotions from meditative, playfulness, sadness, contemplative to driving energy.

--Lynn Miller, CD and Book Corner, Connections magazine, Spring 2014

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  Updated: August 30, 2016 3:00 PM
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