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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Emily Doolittle, All Spring, Chamber Music, Seattle Chamber Players and Friends

Spring may be over here where I sit at my desk outside New York City. But the music of Emily Doolittle, specifically her album All Spring (Composers Concordance 0025) transcends season. Five works in the chamber mode get careful and effective performance by the Seattle Chamber Players and Friends.

I read on the press sheet that the album has an official street date of July 31st, 2015, so I am a bit early.

Nonetheless this is music worth waiting for, a set of works that all have a disarming charm, an organic, almost rustic sort of modern feel. She hails originally from Nova Scotia but now divides her time between Seattle and Glasgow. Her music has been performed to acclaim over North America and England.

All five works have the personal Doolittle stamp upon them. The music often has a whimsical quality, well paced, organically modern tonal, spun out with a cohesively inventive narrative sequentiality. Each work has a distinct identity.

The 2004 "All Spring" song cycle based on the poetry of Rae Crossman has an open poeticism which soprano Maria Mannisto brings out nicely. The duo "Col" (2002/2014) for marimba and violin has a diatonic matter-of-factness and charm. "Why the Parrot Repeats Human Words" (2005) is a narrative based on a Thai folktale with chamber accompaniment. Though I generally do not respond to extensive narrative works I found the chamber music surrounding it compelling.

"Four Songs About Water" (2000) portrays water in four different states with corresponding descriptive music for a nine-member chamber ensemble. So we get effectively contrasting movements depicting "Running Water," "Salt Water," "Frozen Water" and "Rain Water." It is fascinating, nicely crafted and innovative.

"Falling Still" (2001/2009) has as its inspiration the song of a blackbird singing in the early morning rain. The music has a gentle pastoral quality, lyrical and flowing.

If you were to try and pin the ancestry of this music to the influence of forebears you might as I did think of the chamber neo-classic phase of Igor Stravinsky, but that mostly in the pacing, not the tones themselves. Nonetheless Emily Doolittle stands on her own ground, rather delightfully so.

Recommended listening.

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