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Thursday, June 8, 2023

Roger Reynolds, For a Reason


My first exposure to the music of Roger Reynolds was pretty early on, when in  high school I found a New Music anthology that nicely included his chamber group opus from 1965 "Quick are the Mouths of  Earth." Thanks in part to the benchmark performances of the Contemporary Chamber Ensemble under Arthur Weinberg it was a bellwether for me in its uncanny soundscape of evocative Modernisms. Over the years  I have much appreciated the trajectory of Maestro Reynold's powerful works, and here we are with yet another notable offering at this late date. I refer to Reynolds latest recording of four interrelated works for performer (s) and electronics, For A Reason (Neuma 128), a fine two-CD set now out.

What stands out is Reynolds' care in building each sound poetics, so that we look at the finished performed result in its wealth of detail and see the Reynolds we have heard and loved over the years, evolved to hone in on an ever fine grained musical object that each time asserts a sound identity that gives us further entrance into a sonic depth most original, eloquent and effective.

The first half of the program on CD 1 gives  us two sonic adventures for acoustic instrument and direct electronic manipulations via "Computer Musician" Paul Hembree. So "Dream Mirror (Shakespace I)" enables a complex and vibrant acoustic guitar part realized by Pablo Gomez Cano and beautifully transformed in real time by Hembree.  "Shifting/Drifting (Shakespace IV)" does the same with the dynamic violin expressions as nicely realized by Irvine Arditti. 

The second half of the program starts with "Here and There," the considerably orchestral sequence  for close miked solo percussionist who also recites a deeply inner directed poetic text. Steven Shick takes on the daunting part of "Speaking Percussionist" with a true flair and an exciting artistry, a truly musical phrasing of the whole that works remarkably well. Shick combines a pronounced flourish and the precision of a master on this performance. Bravo. 

The program concludes with "Sketchbook, for the Unbearable Lightness of Being," which honors Kundera as it gives us Liz Pearce's extraordinarily music performance on piano and riveting  "low female voice." There is electronic processing here as well and in the end one comes away invigorated and impressed.

In the end we appreciate Reynolds' long journey toward this Sound Color rhythmically conversational eloquence which is less about notes per se and instead zeroes definitively into a post-Serial independence that nonetheless remains at the pinnacle of the High Modernist project.
Hearing the whole once more as I grasp the whole happily after a lot of listens, I feel we might all take some time and appreciate just how important Roger Reynolds has become to us as a master artist both original and transcendent. Definitely recommended. This bears close examination as a set of examples at the apex of this kind of intimate yet exotically vibrant sound performance practice.

Take a look at a few fantastic moments in the Shick performance of "Here and There!"


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