Marc Satterwhite has
had a dual career as a player and composer.
He worked for several years as a professional
bassist before turning his attention
more fully to composing. He is now on
the faculty of the University of Louisville,
where he teaches music theory and composition.
This collection of chamber works spans
about a decade of activity.
It is always with regret
that I write a review of music in which
I find little to praise, but the duties
of credibility and integrity always
require my complete honesty as well
as as much objectivity as I can muster.
Alas, this disc is full of the kind
of structure-less meandering that I
find most maddening, particularly in
composers from American academia.
While I am never opposed
to dissonance, I do object strongly
to noise. Free and improvisatory music
has been around forever, but there still
must be some sense of thematic development
and motivic continuity in a piece to
make it hang together. What we have
here is the rather typically episodic
music that results from hours in front
of a computer that would have been better
spent behind some instruments
learning how they sound which of said
instruments sound best together.
work for English horn and sundry percussion
instruments attempts to paint some sort
of sound-picture. Whatever mood that
the composer intended to create is blown
to bits by the utter lack of any memorable
thematic material. This is not to say
that every work has to have a singable
hook, but we should at least be able
to latch onto something.
And so it goes for
sixty minutes, which in fairness to
the efforts of the composer and performers,
I forced myself to listen to three times
so as not to dash off an impulsive dismissal
based on only one hearing.
Perhaps the most maddening
is the work for solo cello, Witness
of Time. In this the composer seems
to make every effort to prove the things
that the instrument can do without
regard to what it should do.
Unlike Bach, Britten or even Kodaly,
whose solo cello works exploit the instrument
as solo singer and player of polyphony,
Satterwhite’s music leaps and lurches,
plunging in and out of myriad sound-effects
that neither inspire nor attract.
The 1995 Concertino
a Tre comes closest to success of
any of the works on this recording,
this owing mostly to its strong and
immediately apparent debt to Stravinsky.
Regrettably, such homage is not enough
to rescue it.
Centaur is not to be
blamed for this one, as their business
model is to provide a venue for anyone
willing to pay for the privilege of
getting his work before the public.
This also releases the company from
liability for the boxy sound of most
of the recordings here. It did, however,
take me twenty minutes of research to
find the composer’s birth date, which
The performers are
also to be congratulated for making
the best out of what must be rather
difficult music to execute. All of the
performances are competent and professional,
and it is evident that each performer
is dedicated to excellence.