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Eric Richards: The Bells Themselves, Etc / Zimmerman, Et Al

Release Date: 09/18/2007 
Label:  New World Records   Catalog #: 80673   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Eric Richards
Performer:  Alan ZimmermanKay StonefeltDavid KeckGregory Purnhagen,   ... 
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 7 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

RICHARDS _final bells. 1 _time’s racing. 2 My Great-aunt Julia. 3 Conch Music. 4 _harte’s bels. 5 The Bells Themselves: Jonathan Edwards and the American Songbook. 6 Chicken Pull 7,8,9 Alan Zimmerman Read more (cowbells); 1 Kay Stonefelt (vibraphone, gyils, tingsha); 2 David Keck (bbar); 3 Paul Schiavo (ob); 4 Greg Purnhagen (bar); 5 Paul Marquardt (pn); 6 Molly Paccione (cl); 7 Adam Alter (b cl); 8 Eric Richards (whistler) 9 NEW WORLD 80673 (66:38)

Eric Richards is clearly enamored of sound , using its intrinsic nature—vibration, resonance, and color— as the basis for his musical collages. Melodies do appear as simple, unadorned fragments, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg. Richards is stimulated by a wide variety of sources from which he’s derived melodic material, but he’s concealed it to such an extent that an uninformed listener would never suspect its generative importance. In addition, conventional harmony is not a factor in these pieces, which rely not so much on tension and release, tempo alteration, or dynamic contrast as on specific timbres, their accumulation in layers, and spatial movement. There’s a sort of minimalist aesthetic at work, a paring down to essentials that prompts one to contemplate music from a different perspective. I hope this somewhat formal analysis doesn’t dissuade you from hearing the music, because it’s really quite accessible. All that’s required is to suspend expectations and allow the carefully assembled textures to unfold at their leisurely, but not excessively prolonged pace. Each of the seven tracks explores a particular timbre, whether for bells, voice, or piano, although Chicken Pull adds four whistlers to its 72 (!) clarinets. I don’t know how the composer counts the number of instruments, but I would have guessed that far fewer were involved, even allowing for extensive overdubbing. The clarinets play first, followed by the whistlers, who sound like twittering birds overheard during a walk in the woods. My Great-aunt Julia and harte’s bels , for bass-baritone and baritone, respectively, use wide registral displacements in a novel way to highlight the text. Unfortunately, this technique persistently triggered a comic association to a BBC program, Keeping Up Appearances , in which Hyacinth (the woman of the house), pretending to be a Swedish maid, tries to get rid of an unwanted caller by speaking through the door’s mail slot in an exaggerated sing-song voice. Thankfully—this is a magazine for serious record collectors, after all— no giggles interfered with my audition of final bells and time’s racing , which I enjoyed for their mysterious atmosphere, ethereal sonority, and intimations of eternity.

New World’s comprehensive booklet facilitates entrée into the creative mind behind this gently provocative music. Paul Paccione’s eloquent essay examines Richards’s methods and influences in great detail, supplies interesting biographical sketches, and perceptively concludes that “What the poet Charles Simic observed of both Joseph Cornell and Emily Dickinson could be said equally well of Eric Richards: ‘Voyagers and explorers of their own solitudes, they make them vast, make them cosmic.’” The score excerpts have a graphic beauty independent of their musical function; as the composer states in his extensive note, “Unconventional sounds—and the unconventional physical actions called upon to produce those sounds—demand unconventional notation.” I imagine that the voyagers and explorers among Fanfar e’s readers will encounter a kindred spirit in Eric Richards.

FANFARE: Robert Schulslaper
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Works on This Recording

final bells by Eric Richards
Performer:  Alan Zimmerman (Cowbells)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2002-2004; USA 
time’s racing by Eric Richards
Performer:  Kay Stonefelt (Percussion)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2000; USA 
My Great-aunt Julia by Eric Richards
Performer:  David Keck (Bass Baritone)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1993; USA 
harte’s bels by Eric Richards
Performer:  Gregory Purnhagen (Baritone)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2001; USA 
The Bells Themselves: Jonathan Edwards and the American Songbook by Eric Richards
Performer:  Paul Marquardt (Piano), Alan Zimmerman (Cowbells), Molly Paccione (Clarinet)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1997-1999; USA 
Chicken Pull by Eric Richards
Performer:  Adam Alter (Bass Clarinet), Molly Paccione (Clarinet), Eric Richards (Whistler)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1989-1992; USA 

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