On Wednesday March 6th, Nameless Sound presented cellist Tristan Honsinger at Spring Street’s Studio 101. Nameless Sound brings creative music performers from all over the world to play in Houston, and provide educational workshops to students in underserved communities all over Houston.
I first encountered Honsinger in the wild and wonderful music of the Instant Composers Pool, founded by the raucous drummer Han Bennink and pianist Misha Mengelberg (a mentor to Honsinger). I highly recommend all their albums. Honsinger is trained in a variety of disciplines, all of which merge in his improvisations. Honsinger’s tone, at its most expressive, reminds me of the fearless vibrato of Albert Ayler. The forward momentum in an improvised spiritual of sorts tramples over and on the marching tap of his foot on the floor, always pushing forward without resignation, by turns lyrical, strange, whimsical.
When he would look up from his cello and smile or joke, I felt like I was watching the show on an Amsterdam street corner. At one point, Honsinger hopped up on one foot, pausing there to balance, exclaiming “expressivo!” before walking back to another chair to begin again. Another time he held his cello like a dancing partner and swung it across the stage. He also vocalizes along with his cello. “Eclectic” is too reductive a word for Honsinger: each little idiosyncrasy in his playing is integral to the performance. When he ended with his bow scraping high up on his cello, I wanted more.
Honsinger joined the Nameless Sound Ensemble to perform a piece called “pulling out a word.” The ensemble members, musicians and non-musicians, created a texture of sound (and some dance) with typewriters, vocalizations, moans, squawks, and their respective instruments. My guess is it had something to do with the difficulty or futility of language to communicate tied in with some source text with musings on Freud. A guess. The piece seemed to oscillate between sagging and shining, but that’s the nature of these things. There were some wonderful moments of telepathy between the performers, and they all looked like they were having fun. It is always joy to watch improvisers react to each other, baffled, surprised, and joyous.
I would have liked to see thirty more minutes of Honsinger playing by himself and thirty minutes less of the ensemble performance. I feel fortunate to have heard Honsinger play in person.
Joseph Wozny is a Houston-based writer and musician.