Qasim Naqvi’s Preamble (NNA Tapes)

Qasim Naqvi is probably best known as the drummer for Dawn of Midi, a group that, alongside The Necks, has completely reimagined what a piano-bass-drums trio is capable of.

In addition to this already-quite-formidable credential, however, Naqvi is also an inventive composer of experimental music in his own right. Preamble is his first cohesive musical offering in this role – a seven-track disc of works for string quartet, flute, clarinet, piano and vibraphone, out now on NNA Tapes.

Although the seven tracks that make up Preamble were originally written to suit different contexts – from film installation, to fixed media, to dance – the works feel intimately connected and singular in voice.

The tracks feel like episodes of a larger work, ebbing and flowing like waves upon waves, exploring a breadth of registers, timbral combinations and harmonic pallettes. Lines cascade and tumble over each other as though you are hearing the same music from multiple perspectives simultaneously.

There are echoes of the hypnotically undulating world of Morton Feldman, the open-yet-closed formal structures of Earle Brown, and the broad timbral swathes of Kryzstof Penderecki.

What sets it apart from its predecessors, however, is the music’s density and brevity: the album on whole clocks in at a tight 32 minutes, and most of the pieces themselves are no longer than a pop tune.

Meg Erase Meta score excerpt

Meg Erase Meta score excerpt

According to Naqvi, the works of Preamble are united by the principle of openness within limits. “I wanted an element of chance but not total chance,” says Naqvi. “The performers can make certain choices for themselves, based on the watchful impulses of the conductor.”

Each track on the album applies this openness to different parameters – dynamics, durations, articulations, and relationships between musicians, among others. The sounds themselves are lovely and arresting, but the fact that each work in Preamble features a different sort of ‘game’ at play, along with an invitation on the part of the listener to take an active role in discerning what each ‘game’ entails, is what really makes this album worth hearing again and again.

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