Always interested in exploring the connections between musical tones and the vibrations inherent in the human condition, J.A. Deane and Jason Kao Hwang collaborated once again in 2021 (having performed in Butch Morris’s groups in the 1980’s). The exchange of their latest separate projects spurred an interest in a collaborative recording, though Deane was in Colorado and Hwang was in New York. Little did Hwang know at the inception of their project, Uncharted Faith, or throughout its production, that Deane had been diagnosed with stage 4 throat cancer. After the tracks were finished, Deane—employing the Internet’s unique ability to connect people but at the same time to disguise from them in-person observations—told Hwang that “I didn’t want the weight of this [cancer] to shade your performance, as you were coming from a place of such joy.” Packets of audio files had zapped back and forth across the country at the speed of Mbps, if not MBps, during the COVID pandemic: Hwang’s violin improvisations to Deane, Deane’s processed sonic compositions back to Hwang, Hwang’s overdubs back to Deane, Deane’s unnamed finished pieces back to Hwang. Then Hwang named them. The results are transcendent, with atmospheric sonic washes, lush tones, and cinematic like changes of fanciful frames of mind within individual tracks, as if the changes were parts of suites. Hwang’s interest in the sonic possibilities suggested by movies’ scenes (a study which he teaches now as a Sound Image course at New York University’s Undergraduate Department of Film and Television), combined with Deane’s pioneering work with live electronics and live sampling, mesh throughout Uncharted Faith to suggest haunting imaginative images. Those images commence in “Parallel Universe” with Deane’s undulating sonic waves, whose forces ominously, dramatically grow and diminish, as Hwang remains, until the quieting ending, in his instrument’s upper register with voicing delays. The parallels consist of contrasts of pitch and timbre throughout the piece. The suggestions of voicing charged emotions continue on “Singularity.” Hwang’s bowed conversation simulates the human voice in its pacing of phrases, pauses, emphases of notes/words, cries, and whines, while Deane establishes the electronic environment for the dialogue. The upswells and buoyancy of “Crossing the Horizon” increase from the initial carefree jauntiness to groaning tension of growing sonic density, entangled increases of volume, and furious speed to the final plucked diminution. Each track of Uncharted Faith differs in emotional bearing, musical complexity, and technical design. “Shamans of Light” sets up uninhibited, seamless improvisational energy with no tonal center that, like the album’s other pieces, surges in urgent vibrancy, as if the entire composition were a single four-minute wondrous crescendo. “Speaking in Tongues”—enhanced by Deane’s descending-missile-like whistles, resounding splashes, and the repetitive binging like a timer’s—includes brief reminders, amid the oscillating electronics, of Hwang’s classical and Asian music backgrounds when the processor simulates traditional stringed instruments. “Uncharted Faith,” after its beginning consisting of a pizzicato microtonal matrix of plucking and popping, washes into blasting reverberations like a storm’s crashes. As Deane moves into a single organ-like suspended tone in one movement of “Uncharted Faith,” along with additional clatter and shuffling and gonging that doesn’t decay with time, Hwang performs a solemn violin soliloquy of trembling lines, slurred descents, shimmying uplifts, and ceremonial harmonics. This title track, the longest on the album, features a series of moods until the energy weakens, percussive accents stopped, into a slightly wavering tone of diminishing volume. J. A. Deane passed away on July 23, 2021. He never heard the final album of Uncharted Faith.
- Bill Donaldson, Cadence Magazine