Notes and Editorial Reviews
White Bone Country. Tracks. Fata Morgana: Mirages on the Horizon
Stephen Gosling (pn); David Shively (perc)
NEW WORLD 80696-2 (55:06)
Not to get too highfalutin about it, but it is always interesting and instructive to follow the Hegelian synthesis that shapes the flow of artistic developments, that is, the way in which new movements are formed as reactions to the status quo. In architecture, the lofty ideals of modernism grew tired to the point that Robert Venturi was to turn the famous maxim of Mies, less is more, on its head. Less, he declared, is a bore. This attitude spawned postmodernism, at first a delight-filled design philosophy lit up by a new optimism, but within a decade, itself bloated and corrupt.
The history of music is similarly a flow of action, reaction, and continual historicism. The most successful new music today seems to be all about reaction to once refreshing movements, namely, serialism and minimalism. This is ironic, since minimalism itself was largely born out of a rejection of what was perceived to be an academic stranglehold on the new-music community by the serialist camp. What we are left with is a lot of vapid neotonality, and minimalism that consists of the gestures and devices of the early practitioners set within a grandiose and condescending format. The worst offenders are none other than many of the founding spirits of the movement, including the holy triumvirate of Glass, Reich, and Adams.
In this context, I find myself most stimulated by new music that runs away from the accommodations of the crowd pleasers. Abstract, atonal music zaps the old neurons in a way that the latest neoromantic schlock cannot. And then we have such solid soldiers as Andrew Byrne, writing in an echt-minimalist fashion that recalls early Reich. Byrne, who was born in 1966 and thus is, chronologically, entitled to mess with so-called postminimalism, gives us beautifully constructed, tautly focused music that is all about pattern and texture. The spare combination of piano and percussion is deceptive. The layering of multihued timbres is extraordinary and fascinating. The initial appeal of the music is more intellectual than emotional, which will be a barrier for some listeners, but continued exposure to this unique aural landscape triggers the imagination in new ways. The titles suggest a programmatic quality in the music, but “evocative” is a better way to describe it. Byrne, who is from Melbourne, was in fact inspired by the vast deserts of Australia.
The performances are exceptional, adding a veneer of tonal luster to an already splendid fabric.
FANFARE: Peter Burwasser