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Edmund Campion: Outside Music / San Francisco Contemporary Music Players

Release Date: 08/12/2008 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 1037   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Edmund Campion
Performer:  Agnes LeeCarey BellJulie SteinbergMichael Taddei,   ... 
Conductor:  David Milnes
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 7 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

CAMPION Outside Music. 1 Domus aurea. 2 A Complete Wealth of Time. 3 _Melt me so with thy delicious numbers . . . 4 Losing touch 5 David Milnes, cond; San Francisco Contemporary Music Players; 1 William Winant (perc); 2 Read more Julie Steinberg (pn); 2 Gloria Cheng (pn); 3 Vicki Ray (pn); 3 Ellen Ruth Rose (va); 4 Christopher Froh (vibraphone) 5 ALBANY TROY 1037 (66:47)

While I’d heard of Edmund Campion (b. 1957) for a while, I had not heard his music, nor did I have a fix on his creative profile. This extremely successful collection brings him into focus and highlights a series of strengths that announce a confident and highly imaginative composer.

Campion’s most evident specialty is with electroacoustic technology. He studied with Mario Davidovsky, one of the field’s great pioneers; then went to Paris to work with Gérard Grisey, perhaps the greatest of “spectralist” composers; and finally he did a residency at IRCAM before coming to the University of California at Berkeley to head its electronic music studios. An impressive pedigree, and Campion probably could coast on the technical expertise thereby gained for the rest of his career. Fortunately he’s driven by a greater need than staying abreast of the latest software release. Instead, what comes through all this music is his deeply expressive nature and a wonderfully quirky worldview.

Two things make Campion’s music fresh and distinctive. One is his sensitivity to sound itself. Via his technological chops, he knows how to remake acoustic sounds into something hyperrealist—sounds that seem even more present, etched, and colored than in their original form. There’s a magical quality to much of this. Outside Music (2005) for keyboard and a quintet of flute, bass clarinet, harp, vibraphone, and bass, constantly fools you. Just when you think it’s a clarinet playing, you realize something too improbable is occurring within that sound, and it must be a sample coming from the keyboard. But that other figure that seems pianistic, where is it coming from, then? And so it goes. The notes say that Campion developed an interface of four pedals that allows soloist Julie Steinberg to switch and superimpose samples virtuosically. I suspect the only way really to understand who is playing what (aside from the score) would be to watch a performance carefully. Similarly, Melt me so with thy delicious numbers . . . (2002) fooled me on a first listening, since I’d not looked at the notes. I assumed it was for at least a string trio, but in fact it’s a solo viola, whose real-time performance is snatched by the computer and processed/multiplied upon itself.

The second component in the composer’s bag-of-tricks is rhythm. Campion writes a lot of notes, but to a purpose. He creates tricky time shifts that keep you attentive. It’s groovy without falling into an easy repetitive rut. I hear the influence of both jazz and Balinese gamelan, though neither is explicit, and I suspect another listener might find a different set of similarly sophisticated antecedents. Whatever the provenance, the music feels very Californian this way, despite its often real, Eurocentric complexities.

Three works show an impressive range of technological approaches: Outside Music , with its constantly morphing hybrid instrument; Melt me . . . , with its real-time interactive transformation of the acoustic player; and Losing Touch (1994), with its more traditional “fixed” electronic part. It is the earliest of these three after all, and one of its virtues is that the blend between instrument and tape begins so subtly (little inflecting bends of the notes) that its later divergence feels simultaneously natural and exhilarating.

On the all-acoustic front, A Complete Wealth of Time (1990) for two pianos seems to have been a landmark/breakthrough work for the composer, written during his French sojourn. It has far more overtly jazzy elements than the later pieces, though it never cops to easy references. It’s also a complete rush over its 17-minute span, with energy and interesting ideas never flagging. Domus aurea (2000) for vibraphone and piano is similarly fast, intricate, and sly, though it was the only work that wore me down slightly, perhaps because it seemed to “end” a few times before it actually did.

The composer is extremely lucky to have a true roster of California “All-Stars” from that new music community to present his work. Their energy of performance matches his fertility of invention. In the end, a happy surprise, and highly recommended.

FANFARE: Robert Carl
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Works on This Recording

Outside Music by Edmund Campion
Performer:  Agnes Lee (Harp), Carey Bell (Bass Clarinet), Julie Steinberg (Keyboard),
Michael Taddei (Double Bass), Tod Brody (Flute), Daniel Kennedy (Vibraphone)
Conductor:  David Milnes
Written: 2005; Berkeley, California 
Domus Aurea by Edmund Campion
Performer:  Julie Steinberg (Piano), William Winant (Vibraphone)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2000 
A Complete Wealth of Time by Edmund Campion
Performer:  Gloria Cheng (Piano), Vicki Ray (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1990; Paris, France 
Melt me so with thy delicious numbers by Edmund Campion
Performer:  Ellen Ruth Rose (Viola)
Written: 2002; CNMAT, Berkeley, Cal 
Notes: This selections utilizes a pre-recorded tape. 
Losing Touch by Edmund Campion
Performer:  Christopher Froh (Vibraphone)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1994; IRCAM, Paris, France 
Notes: This selection utilizes a pre-recorded tape. 

Featured Sound Samples

Melt Me So With Thy Delicious Numbers

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