Notes and Editorial Reviews
The Book of Goddesses
Embracing the Wind
American Modern Ens
AMERICAN MODERN RECORDINGS AMR1034 (61:23)
Astute readers might recall that a disc of the American
Modern Ensemble performing Robert Paterson’s music made my 2011 Want List, and the present disc would have been a strong contender for my 2012 list were it not for the inclusion of
Embracing the Wind,
about which more below. In this CD, all the composer’s brilliance and imagination on display in the previous one is again in evidence. Performances and sonics are equally vivid and forward here, too. If you bought
his previous CD, and enjoyed it, you need to read no further to know that you will enjoy this disc as well. The one constant, other than the excellence of the music and performances, is that in all three of the present pieces the harp is featured. Paterson’s harp writing is very idiomatic, which is none too easy to write for convincingly. The diatonic construction of the instrument also poses challenges for those who wish to write chromatic music, one of them being that it is quite easy to write such music that is simply unplayable.
The Book of Goddesses
adds percussion and flutes (one player) to the harp, although some of the movements omit one or more of the instruments. The percussion instruments include some (a ghatam, a hollow clay pot drum) that I’ve never heard of. Paterson, noting the frequency in which gods of various sorts show up in classical works, but likewise the dearth of works devoted to goddesses, decided to help rectify that in the present work. The nine fairly brief movements are consequently devoted to Sarasvati (the Hindu goddess of all knowledge), Xi Wang Mu (the Chinese goddess of eternal life), Aphrodite (goddess of love for the ancient Greeks), Brigit (Celtic goddess of inspiration), Estsanatlehi (Navajo goddess of fertility), Xochiquetzal (Aztec goddess of flowers), Oya (Yoruba goddess ruling the Niger River), Yemayá (Santerian goddess of water), and the Muses (the goddesses in Greece who presided over the arts and sciences). Each piece in the set has its own distinctive flavor, but each also evokes an air of exotic modality. Particularly evocative is the piece for Estsanatlehi, played by a solo bass flute.
scored for violin and harp, is a companion piece to
its three movements being modeled after the goddesses Iris, Freya, and Sekhmet. The first of these also comes from Greek mythology, being the deity who brought messages from one of the gods to another, traveling on rainbows to carry out her mission. Her movement opens with the violin playing
, setting up a mysterious and otherworldly mood. From there, the rhythmic activity picks up considerably. Freya was one of the goddesses of Norse mythology, and was associated with love, beauty, and fertility, as well as with war, prophecy, magic, and death. Paterson has depicted her tears—which were thought by the ancients to have been drops of gold that turned to amber when they hit trees—through harmonics,
and delicate arpeggios. Sekhmet was the warrior goddess of ancient Egypt, and is depicted as having a human body crowned with the head of a lioness. She was viewed as the protector of the pharaohs, who followed her into battle. The duo Clockwise, composed of violinist Marc Uys and harpist Jacqueline Kerrod, brilliantly brings the work to life.
Now the downside of this CD: I simply do not understand the inclusion of the final work,
Embracing the Wind
. No, there’s nothing wrong with the work and/or performance, or its fitting in with its discmates. The problem is that this is, to all appearances, the exact same performance of the identical work that was included on Paterson’s
CD that I reviewed in
34:5 (the interested reader may refer to my comments about the piece there). Why the duplication? There must be other as-yet-unrecorded works by this immensely gifted composer that could have filled out the disc, which could have easily held a considerably longer work or works.
Despite that failing, this disc receives my enthusiastic recommendation, albeit
due to the duplication of this 10-minute piece from
FANFARE: David DeBoor Canfield
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