WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Brian Hulse: Pseudosynthesis

Release Date: 02/10/2009 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 1094   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Brian Hulse
Performer:  Nathanael MayBeth Ilana SchneiderMatthew GouldLisa Cella,   ... 
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 57 Mins. 

In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  
On sale! $19.98
CD:  $16.99
In Stock

Notes and Editorial Reviews

HULSE Pinch. 1 Seastone. 2,3 For Rumi. 4,5 Sweat. 1,3 Sunstone 1,2,3 Nathanael May (pn); 1 Beth Ilana Schneider-Gould (vn); 2 Matt Gould (gtr); 3 Lisa Cella Read more (fl); 4 Thomas Rosenkranz (pn) 5 ALBANY TROY 1094 (56:50)

Brian Hulse (b. 1970) is a Harvard grad currently teaching in Virginia. His music is sophisticated, even brainy, but it draws on a lot of sources and mixes them freely. His rhythmic sense is especially sharp, gangly, and witty­—very American in its sound. At one moment things may have a hint of Webernian pointillism, at the next they’re jazzy. The title of the disc is “Pseudosynthesis,” and the composer explains that it’s meant to suggest things that shouldn’t or don’t fit together, and yet they do (or one at least makes the effort). Overall, that’s a pretty good description of this music.

Having said that, I like the work, but at this point don’t yet have a sense of a compelling musical personality. The two pieces that make the strongest impression are Seastone , written for the exceptional violin/guitar Duo46 (four and six strings, I assume), and Sunstone , written for the same performers, with added piano. The former is full of incisive sonic invention; the blend of the instruments is great, and Hulse has a real feel for how wide a range of sounds is possible on the guitar, without indulging in superficial tricks. (The preponderance of works on this disc for the instrument makes me wonder whether it comes from a friendship between composer and performer, or whether Hulse is himself a guitarist.) The latter is simply the best piece on the program, its expressive intent most clear, deep, and focused. And the balance between the three instruments—not easy to achieve—is elegant.

The piano piece Pinch mutates with a quicksilver grace from one mood and/or state to another. The flute/piano For Rumi is sweetly lyrical. The guitar/piano piece Sweat works hard to overcome what I feel is an inherent imbalance on every front between the two instruments: volume, timbre, and sonorous weight (so unlike what happens when the violin is added in Sunstone ; an interesting case of sonic “chemistry”). Overall it comes close, but only in the last, overtly blues-influenced movement do I think it starts to cut loose from these handicaps.

The fact that I don’t feel a strong individual profile may also be more commentary on the times than the composer’s responsibility, because Hulse obviously is talented and imaginative. In this era of so many choices, so much musical hybridization and globalization, it may be hard for a young artist to develop a distinct personality early on. There’s so much to be absorbed, so many contradictory languages and traditions to confront. In the previous century (the 20th, remember?), one could at least latch on to one of the various “camps” and claim a distinct practice—even if the resultant “individuality” was superficial (in fact you were distinct from others because of the group you chose to be in). Anyway, since Hulse seems also to be a big fan of French deconstructionist thought, all these concerns may seem to him very old-fashioned. Accept the inherent multiplicity of it, and get on with it, might be his response. Hard to argue with that.

Performances are beautiful, but that (happily) seems to becoming the norm, with our current generation of extraordinary performers—something American culture should celebrate, were it not so absorbed with exalting its detritus.

There are moments throughout the music when the bonds start to slip. The opening exuberant movement of Seastone projects a natural joy. The third movement of Sweat is a sweet lullaby (with a few diversions that might keep the child awake). So what I can say is that there’s groundwork laid here for something to come. I like what I hear, but I still take a wait-and-see stance towards what may follow. (It would be nice to know the chronological sequence of the works, but the notes don’t reveal that. Sunstone would be a good omen, were it the most recent work.) That will show whether or not this was the beginning of something more dazzling. Diaghilev’s mandate to Stravinsky still holds, I think, for all of us: “Astonish me.”

FANFARE: Robert Carl
Read less

Works on This Recording

Pseudosynthesis by Brian Hulse
Performer:  Nathanael May (Piano), Beth Ilana Schneider (Violin), Matthew Gould (Guitar),
Lisa Cella (Flute), Thomas Rosenkranz (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Pinch by Brian Hulse
Performer:  Nathanael May (Piano)
Written: by 2007 
Seastone by Brian Hulse
Performer:  Matt Gould (Guitar), Beth Ilana Schneider (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 2007 
For Rumi by Brian Hulse
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2008 
Sunstone by Brian Hulse
Performer:  Beth Ilana Schneider (Violin), Matt Gould (Guitar), Nathanael May (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 2007 
Sweat: Suite by Brian Hulse
Performer:  Matt Gould (Guitar), Nathanael May (Piano)
Written: by 2007 

Sound Samples

Seastone: I. -
Seastone: II. -
Seastone: III. -
Seastone: IV. -
Seastone: V. -
for Rumi: I. Lush
for Rumi: II. Joyful
Sweat: I. -
Sweat: II. -
Sweat: III. -
Sweat: IV. -
Sunstone: I. -
Sunstone: II. -

Customer Reviews

Be the first to review this title
Review This Title