Dennis Lorrain: The Other Shape (22:47)
David Jaeger: Shadow Box (8:39)
Larry Lake: Psalm (10:07)
Chan Ka Nin: The Everlasting Voices (9:00)
Pierre Trochu: Eros (12:27)
Canadian Music Centre
20 St. Joseph St.
Canada M4Y 1J9
Review by Joseph Natoli:
Shadow Box was a pleasant surprise for me, as it will be especially for those of you who are enamored with electro-acoustic musical composition (i.e. music that utilizes both electronically process sounds coupled with acoustic instrument performances). Once again, it has been made very clear that Canada excels in this form of composition (especially in Toronto and Montreal where four of the five tape parts were realized and where the facilities for creating this type of music abound). By now, it is clear from my past reviews that electro-acoustical music is an art form I thoroughly enjoy, but in spite of that fact I had approached this review with an open and objective mind and a willingness to find fault if any existed. However, aside from a few minor issues, this CD represents some of Canada's finest creative talent.
Joseph Petric plays on the title track and it is a tribute to his abilities and those of composer David Jaeger that Shadow Box was chosen as the title of the CD, especially since the other selections really seem to be more focused on percussion-oriented sounds and instruments throughout. Right from the onset however, Shadow Box begins to remove any previous perceptions about the accordion that the listener might try to bring to this experience. Jaeger stretches, reshapes, re-colors, permutates, reconfigures, and literally transforms the accordion sound through the use of various effects devices (i.e. phase shifters, multi-tap delays, detuners, and doppler-type effects). One particularly memorable section treated some quick clusters with an upward and downward electronic glissandi, analogous visually to rapid succession of shooting stars. The bottom line of this piece is that it works! It doesn't execute a "blip" here and a "bleep" there, followed by a token "plink" and "plunk" like many other electronic pieces do. Instead, it allows the accordion to interact live with the various effects devices, creating a very tight yet fluid electronic environment. Towards the closing of the work, there is a humorous yet effective climactic build with a kind of "Keystones Cops" scherzo section. The only negative point of this piece however is that it ends on two out-of-context final chords that really seemed to say, "OK, I'm out of ideas on how to end now so I'll just stop here." Otherwise Shadow Box is an excellent work performed by of one of Canada's most capable accordion artists. Mr. Petric's attention to the finest of details and his obvious understanding of the composer's intentions makes this track a very successful offering.
The other works on this CD are also worth mentioning. The Other Shape is a very mature work which spectacularly integrates the sounds from the acoustic percussion ensemble with the pre-recorded sounds on tape. The sound materials chosen for the tape are mainly electronically processed percussion sounds along with some very eerie choral samples. Many of the sections are reminiscent of Hugh LeCane's Dripsody (a classic electronic Canadian composition realized at the University of Toronto Electronic Music Studio) and also some of the virtuostic electro-acoustical works of Luciano Berio and Mario Davidovsky.
Psalm for oboe and electronics is an especially beautiful and poignant work, especially when the quasi-tonal oboe passages emerge from the very dense sustained gong-like timbres. The only thing I had wished for is that in certain sections the oboe had a lot more effects and reverb added to make it appear larger than life in conjunction with the electronics in the background.
The Everlasting Voices is also a very mature and polished offering, with its tape part being realized at the Indiana University electronic studio, one of the premier electronic music sites in America. It is interesting to note that some of the more popular electronic studios in various countries seem to have their own recognizable "sound", and the tape part for this particular work was immediately recognizable to me as the characteristic Indiana University sound, where many other famous American composers have realized their electronic tape parts. Aside from some of the familiar sound materials used, this work also has some of the other Indiana University characteristics of highly technical, complex, and tightly integrated sound materials. The opening virtuostic percussion part with the well-placed ethereal electronic sounds and the lyric vocal parts emerging is an exciting experience. And oh what vocals! Soprano, Rosemarie Landry is one of the most fluid vocalists I've heard in this genre of music. Her range is amazing, and yet her voice maintains its beautiful velvety quality throughout each of her ranges. In fact, Luciano Berio's wife (Cathy Berberian) had always been one of my favorite contemporary literature vocalists, especially in her performance of Berio's Circles. But Rosemarie Landry is every bit as talented and every bit as breathtaking! She is amazing.
Eros, the final work on this compilation started out exceptionally well. In fact, at first I was amazed that this was the work of a student composer. It was very thoughtful and well-paced in the first half of the work. However, the student characteristics emerged as Eros became very busy, incessantly dense, and focused on 1950's sci-fi move-type sounds. The piece could have benefited from some well-timed moments of repose in its final half. But it still had many good qualities, especially the entrance of a recurring quasi flute motif, crying baby samples, and a kind of ABA theme/development/theme structure.
There is no doubt that the Shadow Box cut is one of the highlights of this CD although I thoroughly enjoyed 98% of the compilation. It is well worth hearing for those of you who appreciate the electro-acoustic music art form.
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