02/12/21: Wide and Narrow
Featuring Žibuoklė Martinaitytė, Mathieu Karsenti, Josh Doughty, Patrick Hawes, Robert Carl, Chuck Johnson, and Tania León
Welcome to Keeping Score! I’m Samuel Henderson, and this week I have 6 new releases for your enjoyment.
Lithuanian-born and New York City-based composer Žibuoklė Martinaitytė released Saudade, an album of 4 pieces performed by the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra. The warm, expressive sounds of the pieces envelop the listener, making it easy to get lost in the sound. Composer Jonathan Blumhofer writes in The Arts Fuse:
Taken together, these four pieces showcase a composer whose handling of the orchestra is expert and whose sense of form, in these works at least, feels unerringly right. One might quibble about the music’s narrow range of tempos (especially in Chiaroscuro Trilogy) and, for strongest effect, one should probably listen to each composition individually rather than in succession. Even so, each of these scores persuasively engages the ear on its own merits.
Listen on Spotify.
British composers Mathieu Karsenti and Josh Doughty collaborated on Exchanges, with Karsenti composing and Doughty performing on the Kora, a West African plucked instrument. The release blends genres perfectly between an instrumental ensemble sound and a more ambient soundscape.
In The Fire of Love & Songs of Innocence, British composer Patrick Hawes sets 14th century writings, by Richard Rolle, and 18th century poems, by William Blake, to song. Performed by The Same Stream choir, these songs are quite tonal and melodic, which fits perfectly with the text. The conductor of The Same Stream, James Jordon, writes:
Both works, The Fire of Love and Songs of Innocence, represent settings of profound poets that capture some essences of lives lived. Richard Rolle speaks about spiritual awakening in The Fire of Love, while William Blake’s Songs of Innocence allows us a glimpse into simple, joyous views of the world.
Listen on Spotify.
California-based composer Chuck Johnson released The Cinder Grove. The instrumentation includes both string ensemble and synthesizer, and with Johnson’s pedal steel guitar taking the lead, it has an almost ‘minimalist folk’ kind of feel. While a cliche at this point, this is a release that fits perfectly within the time we live in right now.
American composer Robert Carl released White Heron, with 4 pieces performed by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. Each piece has a spatial reference, from Rocking Chair Serenades ode to the Appalachians to Symphony No.5, “Land”'s inspiration from American landscape. In the album notes, Carl writes:
By creating vertical “ladders” of the twelve chromatic pitches—voiced similarly to the series, and based on different fundamentals—I’ve been able to create a “resonant space” in the music. In it, sounds have room to breathe, and even dense and complex textures do not feel cloudy and self-cancelling. Instead, they vibrate.
Los Angeles-based artist and composer Bryon Westbrook released Distortion Hue. Varying from chaotic and noisy to calm and meditative, the album blends soundscapes, electronics, and minimalism. The album notes say:
Its ten tracks of tape-manipulated electronics present a more raw side of Westbrook’s work, with grainy and damaged textures, walls of feedback and non-metered pulses. The album shows a wide range of expressiveness, capturing at times the deep anxiety of the present moment while also presenting flashes of hope amidst chaos.
Black History Month Composers
Ensemble Connect performs Cuban-American composer Tania León’s De Memorias. The New York Times profile of León explains how she blends her roots with contemporary western techniques and embraces her diversity while also being skeptical of labels. Her career has succeeded beyond just composition, as the Times writes,
Alongside her pathbreaking career as a conductor, Ms. León spearheaded a pioneering outreach program at the Brooklyn Philharmonic and led community concerts across that borough. She oversaw major festivals of Latin American music with the American Composers Orchestra, served as music director of the Broadway production of “The Wiz,” and testified at city hearings about the integration of pit orchestras. Today, she directs the wide-ranging festival Composers Now, which is going on across New York through February.
See you next week!