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Moran: Cabinet Of Curiosities / Dan Moore, Iowa Percussion

Moran / Moore / Iowa Percussion
Release Date: 02/22/2011 
Label:  Innova   Catalog #: 792  
Composer:  Robert Moran
Performer:  Daniel MooreMeghan AubeChristine AugspurgerLucas Bernier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Iowa Percussion Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 12 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MORAN Interiors II: Uncharted lands. Elegant Journey. Salagrama. Cabinet of Curiosities. Meister Eckhard and the Point of No Return. Electric Boogies. Bombardments Dan Moore (perc); Iowa Percussion INNOVA 792 (71:52)

This is Robert Moran (b.1937), a stylistic polymath who’s been associated more with experimental and Minimalist musics than others, but who still tends to elude categories. I have heard his co-composition of Read more style="font-style:italic">The Juniper Tree with Philip Glass, and his charming Divertissement No. 1 for chamber ensemble reading a “score” of flying kernels from a corn-popper. He’s also in the history books for having written works performed by entire cities (more in Europe and in the 60s, when such things were more possible).

This disc consists of all works for percussion, written in graphic notation. Dan Moore, the sparkplug for this project, cannily delineates how graphic notation is different from improvisation. In fact, Moran moved to the medium as a way to free up inhibited classical musicians, by giving them something to “read,” even if it was indeterminate or the “rules” ambiguous. The pieces on this collection come from 1962 to 2010 (though the latest are reworkings of earlier works) and involve extremely different approaches to how graphic notation is used (some are exclusively visually “artistic,” with little direction; others have elaborate sets of rules for reading the scores).

This is the sort of thing that can elicit enormous self-indulgence, and end up sounding homogeneous from one piece to another. Let me testify right now that this is not the case here. In fact, this is one of the finest releases I’ve ever heard to take the indeterminacy bull by the horns and make refined, engaging, and varied music from it. In this sense, I feel Moore must be given credit as something of a co-composer, but that doesn’t take anything away from my pleasure in the music. Moran’s experimental ideal of eliciting the best from committed performers is realized here.

What makes these performances so successful is: the constant variety and careful choice of seductive sounds (including sampled sounds, in Elegant Journey ), the scrupulous attention to different rates of flow (most notable in Meister Eckhard and the Point of No Return and Electric Boogies, which are each the same piece, though the latter—and original version—is five times faster than the former), and just darn great playing all around. And there’s one truly magical work. Salagrama was composed in 1979 for the cathedral organ of Graz. Its original form was what the composer calls an “endless bass line,” tonal but nondirectional. Moore has converted the organ part into a synth sound played by MIDI percussion controller; this provides the shifting pedal, and then he adds a series of tinkling bell sounds around it. The result is truly seductive and hypnotic. At 25 minutes, it’s not a whit too long, and frankly, it’s one of the most beautiful “non-teleological” (non-goal-directed) pieces I’ve ever heard.

So bravo to all concerned. This is a tribute to the virtues of open form and notation, when directed to sensitive performers, who bring the whole of their skill and artistry to it.

FANFARE: Robert Carl
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Works on This Recording

Interiors II: Uncharted lands by Robert Moran
Performer:  Daniel Moore (Percussion)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1964 
Elegant Journey by Robert Moran
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Iowa Percussion Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1965 
Salagrama by Robert Moran
Performer:  Daniel Moore (Percussion)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1979 
Cabinet of Curiosities by Robert Moran
Performer:  Daniel Moore (Percussion), Meghan Aube (Percussion), Christine Augspurger (Percussion),
Lucas Bernier (Percussion)
Written: 2010 
Meister Ekhard and the Point of No Return by Robert Moran
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Iowa Percussion Ensemble
Written: 2008 
Eclectic Boogies by Robert Moran
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Iowa Percussion Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1962 
Bombardments by Robert Moran
Performer:  Daniel Moore (Percussion)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1966 

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