Phillip SCHROEDER (b.1956)
Passage Through a Dream1 (2009) [12:28]
A Necessary Autumn2 (2007) [8:51]
Oceans of Green3 (2010) [10:03]
On Occasion4 (2010) [7:47]
Sky Blue Dreams5 (1985, rev. 1994 and 2010) [11:17]
Erin Bridgeman (soprano5), Michael Henson (clarinet1,3,5, bass clarinet5), Marty Walker (clarinet2, 4), Jennifer Amox (flute5), Jamie Lipton (euphonium3), Rick Dimond (accordion4, vibraphone4,5), Jane Grothe (harp), Phillip Schroeder (piano5, multi-tracked four-hand piano1-3, electric bass2, 4)
rec. March 2007 - January 2011, Harwood Recital Hall, Russell Fine Arts Center, Henderson State University, Arkadelphia, Arkansas, and Architecture, Los Angeles, California.
I like to listen to this disc before I go to sleep. Not to get drowsy – the opposite, I never fall asleep listening to it. In this state of balancing between reality and dream, with eyes closed, this music brings forth colorful visions and stirs strange memories. Curious how such minimalistic (in every sense) means can have such an almost hallucinogenic effect. This music is structured, but does not have a standard “form” in a classical sense, and its progress is not apparent. This is the music of being in a state, not of becoming. It is far from a cheap “ambient” production like the abundant “music for relaxation”. I feel profound musicality here, which can affect the listener’s mood, and operates at a deeper level than that of melody or even harmony. Schroeder’s music does not feel mathematical. The sounds hang in the clouds, turn slowly, drift as in a trance. The style is very uniform over the disc, and the main difference between the pieces is in the color. The entire disc is like a slow passage through a rainbow.
The liner note - unfortunately, very minimalistic too - says: “Among the important influences on his life and work are Taoism and other mystical traditions, daily meditations, nature, stillness, and the love and patience of friends”. This is quite illuminating and explains well the character of the music. In all the works on this disc, the composer employs the technique of digital delay, when a sound is recorded and then played back, thus merging with the original sound, but with delay. This effect creates shimmering textures full of mysterious reflections.
The opening track is idyllic and static. It is strange how something without a hint of a melody could bring to mind a song, but I do feel a soul of a song here. The color is mauve and brown, with yellow dots. The mood is relaxed and contented – but this relaxation is focused and intense, like in yoga. A Necessary Autumn is the only work on the disc which is not based on separate notes, but on motifs. The colors are deep: blue, purple and gray, with silvery splashes. The autumn is sad but necessary, and so the mood is “blue”: it’s the acceptance of sadness. Towards the end it becomes more positive and lit by a hint of a smile, like in the meditative Gymnopedies of Satie. This is really beautiful music.
You can guess the color of Oceans of Green. These oceans are warm, sunlit and full of life. The music is widely spread and slowly bubbles on a low flame. Long notes rise to the surface, one after another, in absolute tranquility. The euphonium was well chosen to create the warm foundation. In the bittersweet On Occasion, serenity and melancholy mix into something bigger. The music seems to caress the chakras. The voice of the accordion brings fragility, vibrancy and sincerity.
The last track, Sky Blue Dreams, is 25 years older than the rest. It employs the largest number of instruments and, most importantly, adds words. These are placed one by one, in a slow equal pace: love, give, hope, time, dream, blue sky, sea, love… There is no text in the booklet and I can’t make out each word, but it seems to me that they form sentences only occasionally, like What’s life? in the beginning - or maybe I just imagined it. All revolves around the word love. The high notes of Allegri’s Miserere come to mind: there is the same enthralling siren-like effect here.
The voice of Erin Bridgeman has sharp edges and a certain strain, which does not let the listener relax completely. This constant tension over the course of eleven minutes is wearisome. The voice is strong, and has a metallic shine; each note is like an even, long plank floating over the harp-like arpeggios of other instruments. This performance is intense and impressive, yet I can’t help but think that a more “angelic” voice would bring in magic and make this work unforgettable. But then, wouldn’t it become more “standard”? Anyway, I believe the composer chose this voice and singing manner on purpose, so I won’t dispute his decision.
The music is accessible, memorable, and definitely worth writing and listening to. It is euphonic and entrancing. I wouldn’t mind passing through this dream over and over again.
Oleg Ledeniov
I wouldn’t mind passing through this dream over and over again.