The other night on the Twitter I wrote:
Herewith, a slightly closer look at the three new or somewhat new recordings to which my tweet alluded.
Dawn of Midi on the face of it is a jazz trio—piano (Amino Belyamani), upright bass (Aakaash Israni) and drums (Qasim Naqvi)—but Dysnomia sounds almost nothing like a jazz album. In truth, Dysnomia sounds like Dysnomia and like nothing else, employing minimal forces for maximal surging effect.
Pulse and momentum are the principal tools at work: the players work away at small rhythmic units, the contracting time signatures phasing in and out of step with one another. The bass sets off in one direction, drums in another, and the piano often as not ticks away with one of Belyamani's hands working the keyboard as the other roams the instrument's interior strings muffling them on the fly. The methods can be traced to the urMinimalism of Steve Reich, but the effect is more comparable to the flying spartan cross-beats of contemporary club dance music.
Dysnomia, effectively a seamless 45 minute composition, is subdivided in to nine segments, each named for a moon (the exception being "Algol," the winking binary star in Perseus). The rigorously rule-based interplay of the musicians emulates the math, mass and gravity-driven force of an irregular orbit, swinging hard to the music of the spheres.
Third Coast Percussion, as the name suggests, is headquartered in Chicago. Formed in 2005, the quartet—currently comprised of Sean Connors, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin, and David Skidmore—self-released its newest recording, Unknown Symmetry in mid-July. It is the very model of a contemporary percussion survey, displaying among other traits the unexpected lushness that can be had by striking objects against other objects.
The collection opens with the compact loping stomp of "Fractalia", by former TCP member Owen Clayton Condon. Arvo Pärt's well known, Bach-evoking (ebachative?) "Fratres" follows, in a meditative gemlike all-percussion arrangement Vombola Krugel that quickly takes up residence in memory. The shimmering nocturne of Christopher Deane's "Vespertine Formations," and Peter Garland's mutteringly withdrawn "Apple Blossm" lead to the collection's climactic offering, David Skidmore's ambitious, multipart "Common Patterns in Uncommon Time," commissioned for the centennial of Taliesin, the Wisconsin home and architectural studio of Frank Lloyd Wright. Over some 40 minutes "Common Patterns..." aims to emulate Wright's architectural practice, large structures playing off of intimate detail hoping to conjoin in a satisfying whole. If nothing else, the moment to moment details maintain a high level of interest, even if the broader themes may seem elusive.
Unknown Symmetry is the very model of a contemporary percussion survey, and particularly welcome for displaying the unexpected lushness that can be had by the subtle striking of objects against other objects.
This blog's discussions of contemporary composers have tended to skew toward Brooklyn, Manhattan and environs, but California, north and south, is also home to an evolving and exciting array of new music, albeit less recorded and more in need of being hunted up than its eastern counterpart. An example new to me is ensemble et cetera, a trio centered in San Diego and consisting of Curt Miller (clarinets), Dustin Donahue (percussion), and Scott Worthington (double bass). Populist Records, the Los Angeles label founded by wild Up members Andrew Macintosh and Andrew Tholl, has just released the group's premiere recording, Worthington's Even the Light Itself Falls.
The only thing small about the piece is the number of players required. Running nearly 90 minutes (and hence released only as a digital download) Even the Light... is a mature and ambitious work that the composer connects to capital-N Nature as a "mental space that includes both reflection and a sense of wonder." "More broadly," he writes, "a musical tide approaches and recedes."
Even the Light... combines the length and spaciousness of later Morton Feldman—sound and silence scuplting one another, each in turn acting as figure and ground—with recurring cells of tonal material, particularly in the clarinet. The effect is of a stroll, with purpose, through the shallows of deep time. The listener who is prepared to give it the same time and fullness of attention that the piece requires of its players will be rewarded as by an immersive and cleansing meditation. Recommended for any who have the time and the inclination.
On Sunday afternoon, September 22, ensemble et cetera will be performing Even the Light Itself Falls at the 2013 Carlsbad Music Festival.
All reviews in this post are based upon copies of the recordings purchased by the blogger.