Review: Okkyung Lee – Dahl-Tah-Ghi (Pica Disk, Mar 1)

Though “Dahl-Tah-Ghi” was originally performed for a small audience of only 30, this spectacular recording allows for any number of people to experience the intimacy and power created by Okkyung Lee’s lone cello improvisations. Recorded in the Emanuel Vigelang Mausoleum in Norway, a cavernous building with extraordinary acoustic properties, “Dahl-Tah-Ghi” is an example of both how unique environments can become a part of the performances they house and Lee’s ability to interact and respond to those environments. The wide range of timbres she coaxes out of her instrument linger in the air for seconds after the actual notes are played, allowing for Lee to build upon sounds that already would have vanished in another location. Her reverent playing alternates between frantic cacophony to almost imperceptible drones and string rattles, expanding and contracting in a way that makes the 41-minute performance seem much shorter. I’m sure everyone who listens to “Dahl-Tah-Ghi” apart from those lucky 30 individuals wishes they could have witnessed it take place in person, but the care taken in recording, as well as Lasse Marhaug’s spectacular mastering, ensures that our experience is almost as amazing.