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Pieces, Threaded - 1999-2001: Piano Music Of Ben Leeds Carson

Carson / Rhodebeck / Harris
Release Date: 07/26/2011 
Label:  Centaur Records   Catalog #: 3105   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ben Leeds Carson
Performer:  Ben Leeds CarsonJacob RhodebeckMark John Harris
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

CARSON Pieces, Threaded 1. 3 Short Piano Pieces 2. Plain Clothes Cop. 3 The Persistent Names of Lost Spaces 3 1 Ben Leeds Carson, 2 Jacob Rhodebeck, 3 John Mark Harris (pn) CENTAUR CRC 3105 Read more (52:40)

My review of A is for Azimuth ( Fanfare 34:5), Ben Leeds Carson’s previous CD, was appended to David DeBoor Canfield’s “Sounds of Silence: The Musical Aesthetic of Ben Leeds Carson,” an intelligent and lucid interview in which the composer explains his philosophy at length. On Pieces, Threaded (the current release), many of his ideas from that interview take shape in The Persistent Names of Lost Spaces , specifically the establishment and erosion of what Carson calls musical boundaries, the evolution/devolution of melody, and the use of silence as a structural component. The ideas underlying the two discs may be similar, but the style is markedly different. There’s more of a sense of ritual in A is for Azimuth and more of a pianistic approach to Pieces, Threaded . In other words, Pieces, Threaded (the CD as a whole, not just the piece of that name) uses more of the technical resources of the instrument. While the disc’s major work, The Persistent Names of Lost Spaces , is mostly slow in tempo, swiftly scurrying flurries of notes requiring more facility from the pianist do appear from time to time. As one becomes familiar with the various motifs, fast or slow, their recurrence helps establish a sense of structure. Dynamics are subdued overall so that sudden fortes produce an impact out of proportion to their actual amplitude. I don’t know if Carson used serial technique in composing this piece but the style is often evocative of that method. In general, I find serialism’s fascination with deliberately amelodic or disjointed gestures unsatisfying and I regard mathematical or philosophical theories as similarly limited when they’re applied to aesthetics. To be fair, Carson’s music, although perhaps influenced by serialism, is both more human and less sterile than that of some of the school’s more doctrinaire devotees. The Persistent Names of Lost Spaces is a long piece (approximately38 minutes). It’s tempting to say it’s too long, but that would be paraphrasing the Prince in Amadeus who chides Mozart for writing “too many notes.” Call me a Philistine, but it is difficult to sit through the whole work, not because it’s overly dissonant or aggressively unpleasant, but just because the materials don’t attract me sufficiently. In an effort to be open-minded I listened to it three times but never really changed my first impression. Perhaps I would have been more receptive if it were divided into shorter, aphoristic statements, since I had more positive reactions to the remaining pieces, none of whose component movements are longer than three minutes and 21 seconds.

For example, the first of Pieces, Threaded ’s three parts, “A Pulse and a Perónist,” interest me for what I hear as its kinship to contemporary jazz. I formed this impression before I read the interview and so wasn’t completely convinced that there would be a connection, but afterwards I felt justified when I learned of Carson’s avowed passion for jazz. “Sixty Long Years Later” (part II) has a split personality, the first half abstract and stylistically similar to the rest of the CD’s contents, and the second suddenly ablaze in a seemingly unrelated wash of impressionistic arpeggios. Even though I enjoy a lot of contemporary music I suppose the fact that that particular effusion is one of my favorite parts of the album reveals a certain conservatism on my part. Carson the pianist creates resonant, almost electronic effects (a bit like a Fender Rhodes piano) in “Biene Herze” (part III). The combination of touch, tone, pedaling, and design suggests a computer learning how to write music, trying first this pitch and then another, eventually assembling a coherent composition. I find it strangely likeable.

Whatever my impressions of Pieces, Threaded (the CD) as music, I can’t fault the performances by Carson and his fellow pianists. All play with fluid ease, subtly nuanced dynamic control, and expressive attention to what I presume are the composer’s wishes. Should you hear it? Carson considers himself an experimental composer, so yes, if you’re an experimentally minded listener.

FANFARE: Robert Schulslaper
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Works on This Recording

Pieces, Threaded by Ben Leeds Carson
Performer:  Ben Leeds Carson (Piano)
Period: 21st Century 
Written: USA 
Length: 6 Minutes 45 Secs. 
Three Short Pieces for Piano by Ben Leeds Carson
Performer:  Jacob Rhodebeck (Piano)
Period: 21st Century 
Written: USA 
Length: 7 Minutes 41 Secs. 
Plain Clothes Cop by Ben Leeds Carson
Performer:  Mark John Harris (Piano)
Period: 21st Century 
Written: USA 
Length: 1 Minutes 57 Secs. 
The Persistent Names of Lost Spaces by Ben Leeds Carson
Performer:  Mark John Harris (Piano)
Period: 21st Century 
Written: USA 
Length: 38 Minutes 13 Secs. 

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