Third Coast Percussion to release ‘Perspectives’

The ever-inventive Third Coast Percussion have another album in the bag – and they are ready to share Perspectives with us in two weeks’ time.

Furthering the ensemble’s links with Cedille Records, the new album contains four new works, headed by a new four-movement Percussion Quartet from Danny Elfman. This substantial 20-minute work was written for Third Coast Percussion at the behest of Philip Glass, whose Metamorphosis no.1 is next up in an arrangement by the quartet themselves. Electronic composer Jlin has been commissioned to write a new piece, Perspective, a large-scale suite comprising seven contrasting viewpoints. Finally Rubix, a collaboration with flute duo Flutronix, signs off the album with its three sections, Go, Play and Still.

Have a listen to the latest edition of the Cedille podcast, where Third Coast Percussion’s Robert Dillon talks through the album and plays clips from it:

Arcana will cover the album in full next month…but before then you can read more about it and hear short clips on the Cedille website

On Record – Vanessa Wagner: Study Of The Invisible (InFiné Music)

vanessa-wagner-2

written by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Vanessa Wagner returns with a thoughtfully compiled album bringing together a selection of modern piano music that might be described as ‘minimal’. Her concept is to show how new music can still explore the instrument afresh, using the barest of melodic or harmonic material as its stimulus but finding something substantial within.

The selection here includes works by 14 composers, many of them rare and unpublished.

What’s the music like?

This is a really inspired compilation, logically ordered and with a natural rise and fall. In the process of the anthology, Vanessa Wagner shows off a wide range of approaches to the piano, from flowing, watery pieces to more percussive interludes. The music might be predominantly slow but Wagner finds its pressure points and releases its emotional energy in full, showcasing some fine compositions in the process.

The rippling surfaces of Suzanne Ciani’s Rain, first in the collection, are a kind of homage to a Debussy Arabesque. Harold Budd’s La Casa Bruja has a slower, more reflective beauty, as does the Brian and Roger Eno collaboration Celeste. Contrast these with the gently twinkling ivories of Bryce Dessner’s Lullaby (Song for Octave), and the thicker brush strokes of David Lang’s Spartan Arcs.

The two Philip Glass selections range from a sombre, deeply felt Etude no.16 to a staccato Etude no.6 that sounds a bit more like a fly buzzing against the insides of a jam jar. Wagner really gets Glass’s phrasing, and the powerful refrain that the piece returns to is forcefully and brilliantly played. Even more dazzling is the following Etude no.3, ‘Running’, by Nico Muhly, its thrilling discourse brilliantly distilled.

Elsewhere Moondog’s flowing Prelude no.1 in A minor casts its eyes towards the past, while Julia Wolfe’s Earring finds striking sounds in the piano’s upper register. Ezio Bosso’s Before 6 complements the activity of the Glass and Muhly Etudes with almost complete stillness, the effect both meditative and moving.

The most striking of the compositions, however, is the album’s centrepiece. Caroline Shaw’s Gustave Le Grey, based on a Chopin Mazurka, starts with clumps of chords and a solemn, slow bass. From these beginnings the piece progresses to contemplation, lost in thought in its centre before a searing expression of feeling, the piano cutting through in Wagner’s intense interpretation. A sense of pathos is evident at the end, a satisfying resolution.

Does it all work?

Yes, on many levels. What this compilation also does is somehow highlight the importance of the music of Erik Satie, without including any. Much of the music here is both minimal, interesting and emotional, mirroring the older composer’s achievements in his Gnossiennes and Gymnopédies. Wagner plays this music with great feeling and panache.

Is it recommended?

Without hesitation. This is a fine creative project, brilliantly scoped and realised. If you want to discover new piano music, here is a whole album’s worth on which to reflect and enjoy.

Stream

Buy

Playlist – World Mental Health Day: Music To Grow To

Today – Sunday 10 October – is World Mental Health Day.

Rather than post the latest concert review on Arcana, I decided to take some time out to come up with a simple playlist of music I have found helpful to listen to in busy or fraught times.

I have called it Music To Grow To, as it begins with one player (Ravel‘s Menuet antique for piano) and grows to music for two people (Messiaen‘s timeless Louange à l’Éternité de Jesus from his Quatuor pour le fin du temps), then three (Mozart‘s sublime Divertimento for string trio).

Philip Glass‘s restful Company is next, for string quartet, then we switch to wind instruments for the 12-player Serenade by Dvořák, a lovely piece.

Finally a long, contemplative piece that should be experienced live whenever you get the chance! John Luther AdamsBecome Ocean performs the function of being incredibly immersive, ambient music and it uses the whole orchestra from small beginnings to slow, steady growth.

Give the playlist a try on Spotify below:

Playlist – Digitonal

It gives us great pleasure to welcome Digitonal‘s Andy Dobson to Arcana’s playlist section.

He has been busy working on album number four for Digitonal, Set The Weather Fair – released only last Friday on the Just Music label. It features a typically blissful set of sonic pictures, with extra-descriptive hues from Dobson’s clarinet and cello.

The Spotify playlist here is a selection of music that led to the album, and it includes restful but thoroughly immersive ambient music from varied sources such as Loscil, Pye Corner Audio, Philip Glass and BT:

Our thanks to Andy for this regenerating collection of music. Digitonal’s new album Set The Weather Fair is out now on Just Music. You can listen and purchase on the Bandcamp embed below:

Switched on – Bruce Brubaker & Max Cooper – Glassforms (Infiné Music)

What’s the story?

The music of the so-called ‘minimalists’, led by Philip Glass and Steve Reich, has always provided a strong link between classical and electronic music, and has naturally inspired a number of artists positioned at that junction.

Reinterpretations of Glass and Reich have varied considerably though, from those who like to perform the music straight with no added frills to those who have added drum tracks and remixed them beyond almost all recognition. In that sense the music has been an inspiration, but it has on occasion proved difficult to get the balance right.

Pianist Bruce Brubaker and scientist / electronic music producer Max Cooper have teamed up for their own reinterpretation of the music of Philip Glass, approaching it with a view to adding subtle enhancements rather than radically changing its essence. Cooper has developed his own system for musical expression with Alexander Randon, taking live feeds from the piano to drive his own systems.

What’s the music like?

Brubaker performs well-known Glass piano pieces such as Mad Rush, Two Pages and Metamorphosis 2 with great sensitivity, to which Cooper adds the expressive studio touches and atmospherics. That may seem like straightforward solution, but both performers have to be careful to avoid over-egging what Glass has already done.

The pair link the originals with improvised music of their own. This is through a series of five preludes where Brubaker channels the spirit of Glass but brings in external influences from the likes of Liszt and Bach to galvanizing effect.

There are so many notes in the busy keyboard pieces such as Mad Rush that to do too much would not work – but here the judgement of both performers is right on the money. The piano parts are essentially the same, but Cooper cleverly highlights elements of the busy lines with his own spotlit textures, putting shards of white noise on the top of the likes of Mad Rush and opening out the sound with long bass notes, taking us from intimate beginnings to cinematic, big-venue textures. He does this without compromising the solitary world of a piece like Metamorphosis 2, and each one makes an unexpectedly weighty emotional impact.

While the reinterpretations of pieces like Tirol Concerto are excellent, Brubaker and Cooper’s interpretation of Two Pages is outstanding. It is ideally paced, the tracer lights of the keyboard operating over great waves of synthesizer pads, the chords shifting simply but with a devastatingly effective emotional payoff. So far each listen to this particular track has left a tear in the eye!

Does it all work?

Yes. It is immediately clear that Brubaker and Cooper hold the music of Glass in the utmost respect, but also that they know how to bring it forward and point it towards a slightly more club-orientated audience. There are no beats at any point, but the electronic sounds and textures bring them much closer – and Glass’s own rhythmic impetus is enough in any case. Each track is carefully woven and lovingly produced, and sounds great on headphones.

Is it recommended?

Very much so. Glass and Reich have had some excellent remix treatment in the last 25 years or so, but Bruce Brubaker and Max Cooper have really raised the game with this album, which is both wholly complimentary to Glass but offers something new in its own right. It is a really fine  achievement.

Listen

Buy