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Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Reiko Futing, Distant Song

Music for percussion, for small vocal ensemble, for the two together, for chamber groups with voice, ever shifting,  Distant Song (New Focus Recordings 216) gives us Reiko Futing at length and in focus. The composer in the liner states that this series of works express his "continuing compositional interest in time and space." How that works out is complicated. Aural memory is piqued or activated by musical quotations in various ways, bringing in, breaking apart, isolating. We are called upon to experience borders and slow change. It is the sort of thing where we do not say to ourselves, "hey, that's the first bar of Beethoven's Fifth!" It is a great deal more subtle than that. In fact I listened a number of times without reading the liners and failed to notice the constructive process, except that Early Music permeates things at times as an underlying force. So it in a way is an "inside baseball" kind of thing. You enjoy the game if you know something others might not, but you enjoy the game too if you do not catch every nuance.

So the opening work "'als ein licht'/extensio" relies as text on a poem by Kathleen Furthmann and a Heinrich Schutz motet as the "basis" for the work. The vocal ensemble has the lion's share of recognizable work to do in making us feel the "early" basis of the music. The viola da gamba quintet, percussion quartet and positive organ stretch our sensibilities. Notably at times the percussion quartet sounds with dramatic outbursts not unlike a taiko drumming ensemble minus the periodicity. The album is dedicated to musicologist Wolfram Steude (1931-2006), who suggested to Futing when he was his student years ago that he write a work in response to Schutz. What matters to our ears is that the Modernist outlook prevails at the same time as the Schutzian zeitgeist is, once you know, very much present.

The program moves through another five works, "in allem frieden" with another poem by Furthmann and the same vocal and instrumental forces, again with a Schutz work as the underpinning for the musical proceedings. "Wie der Tag - wie das Licht" acts as an epilogue with parts for soprano and bass gamba.

The works that follow on the heels of the compositions described above each feature a different configuration--soprano and trumpet; baritone, trumpet. trombone and bass clarinet; chamber ensemble; and chamber ensemble and vocal quartet, respectively.

All have specific aims or structural parameters, quotational/appropriative dimensions that set them into a special place. If you grab this music you can follow along in the liners of course. It is not necessary to map it all out here. There are cyclic-repetitive moments in the works that spell us from the linear Modernisms and linear earlier music quotations we experience throughout. The past mediates the present at times, the present mediates the past. And that perhaps is the point of memory, time and space as motoring factors in the musical universe(s) we occupy daily? Futing wakes us up in good ways to the experiential possibilities while providing us with a musical art program we can appreciate and love

Suffice to say that the music is distinctive, individual, inventive and very imaginative. That in the end is the best reason to hear the album. That Reiko Futing creates his works in original ways is a fact. To understand his music it is very much a key to hear how the results are constructed, of course. That the results are striking aurally is confirmation that he is on the right path. Very recommended.

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