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Simon EMMERSON (b.1950)
Points and Pathways
Pathways (1988-89) [19:49]; Points Trilogy (1993-1998) [32:00]; time-space (2001) [7:53]

Nancy Ruffer (flute); Neil Heyde (cello); Clive Williamson (keyboard); Dharambir Singh (sitar); Sartwa Sabri (table); Priti Pantal (director); Simon Emmerson (electronics); Jane Chapman (harpsichord); Inok Pask (kayagum); Eleanor Dawson (baroque flute)
rec. July 1993, Sept 1998, City University, London, and March 2005 Keele University. DDD
SARGASSO SCD28060 [59:47] 
Experience Classicsonline

One of the UKís best known Electroacoustic composers, Simon Emmerson was Director of the Electroacoustic Music Studios at City University in London for 28 years before taking up his current post as Professor of Music, Technology and Innovation at Leicesterís De Montfort University. Respected both as a composer and as an academic, his music has a unique voice and a refreshing sense of ingenuity. 

Pathways †transports us into the unusual realm of western instruments combined with Indian instruments and live electronics. It may seem like an unlikely combination, but the effect is fascinating. Starting simply, the music develops organically, the sounds fusing to produce a new whole where the boundaries are blurred between the instruments and the electronics. The instruments retain their identities and in doing so give a distinct colour to the overall sound. The musical landscape he creates is unique and intoxicating, combining traditional elements such as Raga with non-traditional elements such as the live electronics. The work was commissioned by Shiva Nova and first performed at the Almeida Theatre in London in 1989. 

Points Trilogy is a set of three works which may be played separately or as a group. The first movement, Points of Departure features harpsichordist Jane Chapman, who gives an excellent performance here. The music feels as though it is a modern day version of a Baroque toccata Ė rapid but somewhat exotic arpeggios, ornaments and scalic figures hypnotise us as they slowly develop and gradually distort. Emmerson has once again succeeded in maintaining the character of the instrument he is writing for, while at the same time adding a new perspective on its sound and musical possibilities. Points of Continuation is a purely electroacoustic piece which uses sounds derived from the instruments used in the outer two works of the trilogy, the harpsichord and the kayagum (a Korean plucked instrument). The piece is wholly engaging, forcing the listener to explore the individual sounds within the overall soundscape, and passes by quickly, changing perceptions of time. The final work in the trilogy, Points of Return, features the kayagum, a Korean string instrument with a beautifully sonorous tone. Emmerson maintains his theme here, not replicating Korean music, but instead incorporating characteristic elements of the instrumental writing into his own musical language. 

The final work on the disc is Time-Space, a tranquil work for baroque flute, harpsichord and electronics.† Emmerson explores the sounds of these instruments together, and the calm opening features multiphonics, air sounds and pitch bends on the flute, heard against gentle tremolos on the harpsichord and reverb and delay lines in the live electronic processing, to create a tapestry of sound. The piece is in the form of variations, with timbral changes moving through the work. The stillness of the material creates a wonderful atmosphere and draws the ear in to the exploration of sound. 

This is a disc which is deeply satisfying to explore. It encourages active listening and each subsequent hearing brings out more details and sonorities. The pieces all seemed considerably shorter than their true durations - for me, always a test of well composed music! - and each had a strong identity of its own. The music is varied but bound together by Emmersonís intelligent and imaginative compositional voice.

Carla Rees



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