As the many pieces of music titled “Murmuration” demonstrate, the movements made by flocks of starlings have often inspired musicians. In Katherine Kyu Hyeon Lim‘s album Starling the variety and complexity of murmurations was not the inspiration for the music but instead seemed to be an apt description of music already brought to life by the South Korean-born violinist and her trombonist, Kalia Vandever, and saxophonist, Alfredo Colón. The trio started from a series of prompts such as “play long tones” or “go against one another”, with rack titles such as “Further and Further”, “Drawing Out”, and “Passing By” indicating the depicted motion.
As you would expect from an improvised experimental album, it is varied and, at times, challenging, but tracks like “Sitting With It” and “As It All Goes By” are so beautiful that they will surely appeal to a wide audience. The press release calls this sentimentality, so I guess you can call me sentimental. They soar and my heart can’t help but follow.
We become aware of the individual starlings when the trio split and perform solo interludes. Kalia Vandever’s “Passing By” for trombone and effects is thoughtful, Katherine Kyu Hyeon Lim’s violin in “Going Through” is tense and strained, and Alfredo Colón’s soprano sax in “Quick Flight” dashes with unpredictable brilliance. It was an inspired decision to have the trio perform solos because they cause you to hear the trio in a different way. The paradox of the starling murmuration is that a collection of individuals work together so compellingly. It is barely understood; scientists have theories as to how the birds coordinate their behaviour but not much more. Katherine Kyu Hyeon Lim has brought that to life. Listening to it is an intriguing and, at times, heart-lifting experience.