The cellist Johanna Varner is a recipient of a grant from the City of Munich and has initiated several concert series in the Bavarian capital. For her part, the American Mary Oliver holds a PhD (Doctor in Philosophy) in Music Theory, is a member of the ICP Orkest, and plays both viola and violin. In 2008 they founded the duo JOMO. These two musicians revel in experimentation and refuse to be pigeon holed, taking on the gamut of new creative ideas within an experimental context.
Their music embraces the aesthetics of opposition one might say, and is rich in sonorities and echoes. What emerges is not an artificial challenge aimed at winkling out the differences between classical music, contemporary music and jazz extemporisation, but an unregimented improvisation that appears to abut resonances from all eras, as well as jazz itself and New Music. Johanna Varner and Mary Oliver both enjoyed a classical training as string players at renowned conservatories, and this certainly influences the sound-world of the duo JOMO, which oscillates between sonic events rendered acoustically foreign – scordatura for example – and rhapsodic multiphonics, between hardly audible chirruping flageolets and the beauty of the Romantic string ideal. This first CD offering by Johanna Varner from the ICI ensemble munich and Mary Oliver of the ICP Orkest is released as part of the ICI Edition.
JOMO is an organic musical collage that is marked by stylistic ruptures and startling breaks with style as well as musical material rendered extraneous. ‘Extra-territorial’ playing techniques are brought to bear on the phonation of each sound, the beauty of the arabesque and a feel for inculcating sonic inner life leading to new content. Communication becomes pristine as Johanna Varner and Mary Oliver open a door on a contemporary if timeless musical cosmos. Crystalline structures materialize as do fragile, fleeting essences which seduce the listener within an extra-musical aesthetic.
Stefan Rutz on JOMO:
The very first notes cause one to take heed. It certainly is not a celebrated symphony, and no hackneyed series of pitches is presented. In the nigresence, the onlooker is forced more to don the mantle of an exciting exchange between two instruments, in a rhetorical and entertaining way at least. This altercation hardly ever takes the expected course, but allows music to be created the long notes of which never seem boring and whose shorter notes never get on one’s nerves, the instruments coaxing sound out of this very space inhabited by the eavesdropper.
The writer would be grateful if just one per cent of these notes could be turned into words. And, as Johanna Varner and Mary Oliver encourage their instruments to speak in such a masterly way, they seem to chirp, to tweet, to twitter and to cheep, engaging in subtle intrigues and amusements, suffering and pleasuring themselves, nay rejoicing in coquettish and warbling display. Occasionally they are forced to reflect, and interpret the temperature perceived, the morals of mankind as it were. They present both pro and contra – something one has never experienced before – and as the volume swells, they become suddenly bashful, tittering on the tightrope of a particularly lonely note taken ever so softly, even though they risk peering into the abyss. At the end, they are not afraid of a lull in things, before they abruptly take off like butterflies in ambient space …