From its enigmatic notation and the conceptual tendencies expressed by Feldman, Sabat determines that the fragment is written in an alternate tonal space. Throughout Les Duresses, this space is given shape and consideration. Although it fixes what Feldman left open, both the intonation and the album continually propose new ways of being heard. They become afterthoughts embedded in a process of discovery.
The performance given by violinist Andrew McIntosh is as poignant as it is moving. He echoes the approach to intonation taken by Sabat. By extending into the upper reaches of a sound's harmonic spectrum, the music traces various points of convergence where it can be heard belonging to a number of tonal centers. For listeners, the inertia of this choice extends into the sounding surface, not merely as a projection of compositional gestures. It gives Les Duresses an almost optical or holographic veneer. While sound this harmonically resonant would generally find its expression in drone music, Sabat explores a register where movement springs inherently from the intonation of a spectrum. This enables a reshaping of his music's maneuverability, as well as its emotional pull.
Four of Sabat's compositions, Intonations after Morton Feldman 1 and 2, Two Commas and Duas Quintas, outline a terrain suggested within the intonation. Near the end, Sabat joins McIntosh on a second violin, almost imperceptibly at first. Although this doubling signals the furthest departure from the original solo, it comes closest to capturing its surface activity, which for Feldman is unique in its play between tension and relief. Les Duresses extends this in both directions. Tensions are made greater and the reliefs softer. Sabat draws on a sound world, not from Feldman, but like Feldman, that invites listeners to absorb themselves in longer durations where patterns can unfold. It comes from an imaginary American folk music, full of meandering, drifting, and at times, exuberance.
The depth of Sabat's research into Feldman's well-documented interests bring about results that are arguably closer to the composer's intentions than one finds in many historical interpretations of music. His intonation of the fragment is more Feldman than most recordings of Palestrina are Palestrina. As an album, though, Les Duresses slips past interpretation and takes up imaginative trajectories into Sabat's compositional body of work.