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tag: classical

The Search for Intelligent Life

Between the notes

All held chords and cinema-ready dramatics, calculated shimmers and barely perceptible shifts, “OUT∃R WΩRLDS” by composer Dolores Catherino represents a search for intelligent life between the notes. The result bridges the gap between 20th-century classical modernism and classic synth space music. Track originally posted art soundcloud.com/dolores-catherino. More on Catherino at newmusicusa.org.

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A Cello Transformed, and Transformed Again

When Henrik Meierkord met Marco Lucchi

“Flacholet” is described by its composer-performer, Henrik Meierkord, who is based in Stockholm, Sweden, as “An organism of cello.” That is apt. The track is as if the cello has taken on a life of its own, a life enabled by some sort of electronic assistance. The slow sawing of the strings is rendered with depth and warmth, and the droning that it yields becomes as much a part of the composition as the originating tones. Halos of sound appear, and textured moments yield brief, sharply defined cameos before fading into the lush lull.

And as it turns out, the track itself has taken on a life of its own, as well. It was picked by by Marco Lucchi, of Modena, Italy, with Meierkord’s consent, and pushed even further into atmospheric realms. “Separasjon” builds on the drone-like qualities of the original, reducing the highs and lows of the drama in favor of something hushed but no less powerful.

“Flacholet” originally posted at soundcloud.com/enrikeierkord. More from Henrik Meierkord at henrikmeierkord.bandcamp.com and soundbread.se. “Separasjon” originally posted at soundcloud.com/marcolucchi. More from Marco Lucchi at marcolucchi.bandcamp.com. (Meierkord was the cellist featured in the score to the 2018 Oscar-nominated stop-motion animation Negative Space.)

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Yaz Lancaster’s “Intangible Landscapes”

Live with Apply Triangle

This rapturous quartet, “Intangible Landscapes” by composer Yaz Lancaster, moves from stately restraint to operatic dramatics over the course of its meticulously plotted 12-plus minutes. At the composition’s opening, it might appear to be a latter-day Morton Feldman piece, a slow piano pulse (courtesy of Jixue Yang) under-girding crosshatched woodwinds (flute, Joshua A. Weinberg; bass clarinet, Tyler Neidermeyer) and Lancaster’s own violin.

But as it goes, it grows. The clarinet and piano gather steam, and collude to emphasize the emboldened pacing. The ensemble itself seems to double in size as the volume increases and the parts cease leaving generous space for each other. Particularly potent is the feedback-like noise emanating from one of the woodwinds around the 10-minute mark.

The three musicians joining composer Lancaster go by the name Apply Triangle, according to whose Facebook page “is an electroacoustic trio consisting of flutes, clarinets, piano, and electronics, performing works for any combination of these instruments that utilize pre-recorded sound, live processing, or electronic instruments.”

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/yazjanelle. More from Lancaseter, who is based in Brooklyn, New York, at yaz-lancaster.com. More from Apply Triangle at instagram.com/applytriangle.

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Anna Höstman Goes Dark

Exploring the aphotic zone with the Red Shift Ensemble

Don’t judge a track by its waveform.

Certainly, if there are hard edges evenly spaced, then expect something with a beat. To sort out the pace, your imagination must factor the number of perceived units to the track’s length. And still you might be wildly off.

And if the waveform varies widely, ranging from short snatches of excited activity to long swaths of even keel, the best you can do is to expect the unexpected.

The waveform for “Blind” by Anna Höstman, a composer based in Victoria, British Columbia, suggests itself as a series of swells, vertiginous ones by the looks of it. To a degree that turns out to be, upon listening, the case, but just barely. While “Blind” does move from slow pulse to slow pulse, the heights are quite subdued, the string-instrument equivalent of someone humming inwardly to themselves, lost in their own thoughts. The result is serene tinged by tension, as played here by Red Shift Ensemble, a string quartet consisting of cello, violin, viola, and double bass. The combination of cello and double bass lends the music its depth, its rich lower end (contrast Red Shift with a traditional string quartet, which would have no bass, and a pair of violinists). Listening to the variation in “Blind,” to the subtle steps of tonal development, is quite rewarding.

In a brief liner note, the composer explains that the track is inspired by the aphotic zone, or the darkest depths of bodies of water, where light doesn’t penetrate. The performance was the piece’s debut, December 16, 2019, at the Pyatt in Vancouver. The musicians are Laine Longton (cello), Sarah Kwok (violin), Parmela Attariwala (viola), and Mark Haney (double bass). Also per the liner note, the piece was performed by Red Shift in “complete darkness.” Listen to the recording as the audience did: lights out.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/annacomposer. More from Anna Höstman at annahostman.net.

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Julia Kent Reveals an Unreleased Track

It's 2011 all over again, in a good way.

Been awhile since the cellist Julia Kent had a mention here, and thankfully there’s a new release, providing good reason. “Salt Point” isn’t truly new. It’s one of two previously unreleased tracks that will appear on the forthcoming expanded, vinyl edition of Kent’s 2011 album, Green and Grey, alongside the four tracks off Last Day in July, which came out the year prior to Green and Grey.

“Salt Pond” is a lush slice of what has come to be called neoclassical. That’s an interesting term in how it has transitioned over time. It used to mean sort of the opposite of what it now means. It once meant contemporary work that had obvious roots in the past, work that strove for a semblance to antiquity. Now it tends to mean work that explores the instrumentation and timbres of classical music, but in a distinctly modern manner. In other words, the “neo” has become something of a modifier; what once refuted modernity now embraces it. Often neoclassical means melodic minimalism, which is interesting since minimalism can be understood to stand in contrast with neoclassical.

Anyhow, the terms aside, “Salt Point” is a generous mix of pulsing drones and pointillist strings (Kent is foremost a cellist) that bring to mind the use of delays in dance music, albeit slowed to a lounge’s speed. At its climax, “Salt Point” almost loses itself, beautifully so, in a rapture of echoes. There’s also an official video for the track up on Kent’s YouTube channel, full of images from nature, overlapping and sometimes manipulated, not unlike her cello. It was made by Jola Kudela:

More from Kent at juliakent.com. The album is part of the November 29, 2019, Record Store Day. Details at recordstoreday.com.

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