Playlist – Julia Kent: Cello Mix

It gives us great pleasure to welcome cellist and composer Julia Kent for the provision of a cello-themed playlist for Arcana:

In just over an hour of music she demonstrates a wonderful scope of modern ways of writing for the instrument. These range from the Cello Sonata of David Baker, which appeared on Sony Classical’s Black Composer series in the 1970s (for review on Arcana shortly), to music from Lori Goldston, Peter Gregson, Jo Quail and Resina.

In the course of an hour the cello moves between music of grace (Helen Money, Simon McCorry) and outright menace (Okkyung Lee, Philip Sheppard), not stopping at the same place or mood twice – and on occasion bringing other instruments on board. As a lapsed cellist myself I can declare myself astonished at the breadth of writing there is for the instrument currently.

Sit back and enjoy the cello’s versatility in an hour which I guarantee will take you to several special places!

On record: Julia Kent – Temporal (The Leaf Label)

Reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Canadian cellist-composer Julia Kent turns to expressive dance for inspiration on her fifth album Temporal. Much of the music here has its origins in the theatre, and looks for a more organic approach than the relatively confrontational Asperities, her previous album for The Leaf Label in 2015.

What’s the music like?

In a word, emotional. The cello has properties unlike any other instrument, an ability to function as bass, harmony or treble – and all combine here to heart-melting effect. Kent uses the distinctive timbres of the instrument’s ‘open’ strings to create a mood in Last Hour Story, the expansive opening piece, but when the bass drops the full range of sound is fully revealed.

The music does indeed dance, often slowly – but the cello takes the lead with probing melodies from its rich tones. The use of subtle vocal effects around the edges only enhances the human connection. While Imbalance uses more electronics, with a fluttering figure from what sounds like a hi-hat, it cuts to the wide open Conditional Futures, a glorious sonic panorama.

When other instruments do appear, such as the soft piano in Crepuscolo, they are at a respectful distance, the cello kept as the foreground ‘lead’.

Does it all work?

Absolutely. Julia Kent knows intimately the potential of a cello not just to sing but also to provide harmonic substance and rhythmic impetus. All elements come together beautifully here.

Is it recommended?

Very much so. Temporal represents a good way in to Julia Kent’s music but is also a natural pinnacle of her work so far. It repays both foreground and background listening, though the former is encouraged so you can get the extent of the intricacies in and around her cello. Once heard a few times, Temporal will become a permanent fixture.

Further listening

You can listen to Temporal below:

Meanwhile Julia has contributed a cello-themed playlist to Arcana which you can listen to here: