CARRICK Flow Cycle • Either/Or • NEW WORLD 80719-2 (51:10)
In flow. Shadow Flow. Moroccan Flow (Unfolding From Unity). Duo Flow. Á Cause du soleil. Flow Trio.
Born in 1971 in Paris and currently based in New York, composer, conductor, and pianist Richard Carrick studied under, among others, Mario Davidovsky and Brian Ferneyhough, but his music—if The Flow Cycle, my introduction to him, is anyRead more indication—is neither experimental nor boundary-pushing, but rather broadly modernist in sound and concept. That is to say, there is an edginess and unpredictability at the root of these five pieces for strings—three solos, one duo, and a concluding trio—but one is likely to encounter a spirited Bartókian folk dance or episode in a Moroccan mode amid the microtones, angular phrases, and pointed dissonances that color and shape the tonal/modal melodic contours.
The Flow Cycle takes its name from psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s theory of “flow” as a state of mind where attention to detail, intense focus on one’s task at hand, and total commitment result in a positive and gratifying achievement. But other extramusical influences, from medieval Islamic art and architecture to modern literature (specifically, Albert Camus’s novel The Stranger), make their mark in less-than-obvious ways. Though intended to be heard as a sequence—heightening the evolution, if not strict development, of the material and performance techniques over the course of the listening experience—each piece has distinctive elements that define its own identity. Constructed as free fantasies, where moment-to-moment activity takes precedence over organizational unity, they articulate small details with energetic gestures—jolting, swooping, lilting rhythms; irregular phrase lengths and unexpected accents; string harmonics, bristling pizzicati, exaggerated bowing, and other tonal/textural effects. But there is also an ever-present clarity of line and dramatic continuity that help the music sound subtly familiar and vigorously new at the same time.
Violinists Andrea Schultz and Kuan-Cheng Lu, violist Dov Scheindlin, and cellists Alex Waterman and Eric Bartlett are members of Either/Or, the ensemble Carrick cofounded with percussionist David Shively in 2004, and they provide vivid, nimble accounts of the engaging music at hand.