Focus for a moment on a close-up of Susana Santos Silva. One in particular – a black and white portrait – coerces the observer’s attention on a pair of eyes suggesting a physical and mental wholeness identifiable with a single word: courage.
It takes indeed a substantial amount of bravery to face a crowd all alone, even if supported by the physics of high-ceilinged oscillation. The former church of Santa Engrácia in Lisbon – subsequently converted into the National Pantheon – decided that the intrepid trumpeter deserved some assistance in manifesting her commitment on February 12, 2016. The outcome is an album where the correspondence between silence, extended tones, broken bursts and long-lasting echoes is nearly optimal. The audience’s quietness contributes to outline the acoustic interrelations pertinent to a veritable process of self-exploration.
Accordingly, each sound – including the percussive ones, as Santos Silva occasionally introduces small bells and tin whistle – uses to good advantage the venue’s shapes and characteristics. Never released in excess of “just a few”, the notes are still enough to suggest implicit tensions and subsequent liberations. The emotional impact may be somewhat mitigated by the sheer length of the reverberations, but the crucial meaning arrives distinct and unequivocal.
Santos Silva plays inside. Inside herself first and foremost, and within the components of the pitches. She also generates compelling microtonal shifts to improve the music’s constitutive harmony. The solitary performer’s convergence with the molecular aspects of timbral research is thus complete; we almost envision rays of light entering the building to cut the scene at various heights.
A musical instrument in the right hands contains the codes to an unspoken knowledge destined to remain inexplicable for theoretically evolved beings who nevertheless keep using an ever-limited verbal palette. Santos Silva appears to be another medium chosen to give concrete evidence of this axiom.