Christian Munthe "Blowing the Wind: 11 Etudes for the Archtop Acoustic Guitar" CD-r
Guitarist Christian Munthe continues his exploration of the guitar-as-object on this release, which consists entirely of sounds made by blowing onto and into an archtop acoustic guitar. This was always going to be a challenge, as a guitar, even an acoustic one, isn’t a particularly easy instrument on which to explore this technique. Munthe seems to have made the best choice with an archtop acoustic, which has a large body and gives the best chance of amplifying these kind of sounds. However, it doesn’t have any particularly tickle areas that would resonate by merely being blown on, and as the CD goes on, it’s not clear how the particularity of the guitar itself comes into play—if this could be any other hollow object, how would the sounds be different? The strings are nonexistent here, perhaps having been removed—there’s no attempt (or, at least, success) at getting them to vibrate even incidentally.
Part of the success of this project functions on Munthe’s ability to essentially blow in interesting ways, and he runs the gamut of inhaling, exhaling, and lip-smacking in the occasional manner of a less menacing C. Spencer Yeh. He intuitively grasps this need for variation, pulling against an instrument that isn’t giving him much help, at times pausing in what could be catching his breath and what could be exasperation. He sniffs like a dog, breathes through mouth and nose all at once, and varies the pattern of his breathing, it seems, as much as possible.
There’s a moment in the second etude where Munthe, blowing hard, accidentally intones just a bit. It made me hope for a moment in which he would actually vocalize or sing into the resonant cavity, and that moment comes surprisingly in the fourth etude, met, like the discovery of the apes in “2001,” with an almost celebratory crescendo. From then on, vocalizing appears at times, resembling hushed Tibetan throat singing, but much of what’s left alongside the blowing is the thwacking and slurping that keeps in the listener’s mind the extreme limitations of this exercise. Only in the tenth etude does he try in earnest to intone—apparently with his mouth closed, with sometimes unsettling results. After this, the extreme minimalism of the final track is a welcome coda. 5/10 -- Travis Bird (4 August, 2010)