FFEAR (Forum for Electro-Acoustic Research) is an adventurous improvising quartet co-led by long-time collaborators Ole Mathisen and Chris Washburne. FFEAR’s prime objective is to research and explore new sonic possibilities by adopting contemporary classical compositional techniques into an improvisational setting. Conventional uses of meter, tonality, and harmony are replaced with multiple meters, microtonality, and open templates of form to forge novel and unexpected paths in improvised music. FFEAR delights in blending and blurring the divide between jazz and contemporary classical music, as well as the visual and sound arts, producing a truly original voice and approach to improvised music all the while staying true to the centrality of groove.
The title piece, “Mirage,” is a suite composed by Mathisen with the idea of creating an orchestration that transcends the sound of the four instruments that comprise FFEAR. Through complex rhythmic layering and microtonal harmony, along with strategic doublings and rich intervallic relationships, a musical mirage emerges. The five movements are organized as a journey towards a vision that turns out to be an illusion. Part 1: Haze, starts out optimistically, but quickly loses the way and the instrumental parts bicker about what direction to take as well as how fast to move, half of the group plays in 11/8 and the other half in 13/8. Part 2: Shimmer, an otherworldly vision appears in the distance, illustrated by the use of microtonal harmony, built off a chromatic system with ten tones instead of the conventional twelve. Part 3: Shapes, the vision becomes more clearly defined as the piece finds a vague key center inflected by microtonality. Part 4: Scenes, the journey intensifies as the mirage remains out of reach. In Part 5: Haze, the journey ends, circling back onto itself, though now, more grounded and enriched by the experience of getting nowhere.