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Baljinder SEKHON
Places and Times
Passageways (2015) [9:31]
Musica Casera (2014) [12:14]
Death Is an Adviser (2017) [20:40]
Sun (2011) [9:30]
Refuge (2013) [8:50]
Dave Gerhart (steel pan)
Dieter Hennings (guitar)
Eunmi Ko (piano)
Los Angeles Percussion Quartet (Passageways)
Line Upon Line Percussion (Sun)
McCormick Percussion Group
rec. 2014-17, Chapman University, Orange; Springs Theatre, Tampa; Caldwell-Carvey Foyer, Southwestern University, Georgetown, USA
INNOVA 988 [60:47]

Baljinder Sekhon has written for a wide variety of ensembles and is much in demand amongst musicians. Passageways for steel pan soloist and percussion quartet was commissioned by a consortium of over 40 percussionists organized by Dave Gerhart, and the resulting work has a playful feel in its opening minutes, the steel pan providing a melodic as well as rhythmic topping to a rich assortment of pitched and non-pitched percussion. The virtuosity of the steel pan part emerges more individualistically in more reflective material further along, the instrument also exploring its organ-like sustain qualities and playing in counterpoint with marimba and tubular bells before entering a groovy and hectic final apotheosis.

Musica Casera written for classical guitar and seven pitched percussion instruments, “explores the timbral boundaries between guitar and keyboard percussion” with use of bowed percussion sounds, pitches being bent into strange glissandi, and unusual blends of high sparkle and low sonorities that at times seem to expand the guitar into something truly exotic. The title means ‘Homemade Music’, or specifically the composer’s “experimenting with musical ingredients."

As its title suggests, Death Is an Adviser, for piano and nine percussionists, has a darker feel than the previous works. The title comes from a chapter from a book by sorcerer Don Juan Matus “that deals with the awareness of death and how such awareness advises our decision-making in life.” Divided into six fairly compact movements, the music is by no means always funereal, with some intriguing strumming effects on the piano strings, rhythmic vitality and expressive if elusive moments of harmonic confluence. I particularly like the endless descending sequence set up in the fifth movement, now or never.

Sun for three percussionists, has a symmetry in the instruments allocated to each player which allows the group to play “as one large instrument with three performers working towards one musical character.” A centrally placed cymbal is also shared by the performers, enhancing the theatrical nature of the set-up. “…many segments of music are intertwined and overlaid in a way that creates a singular event with various ‘flares’ of sound on its surface.”

Refuge for seven percussionists is “a musical escape that employs a variety of pitched and non-pitched instruments.” There is a process at work here that involves distinctive entries, the secretive bells and chimes of the opening expanding outwards, but with sonorous undertones that return further along – a sanctuary of sound that is enhanced or threatened by energies from the other instruments.

Bajinder Sekhon is clearly a skilled craftsman when it comes to the complex world of percussion, and the music here is never less than intriguing. The recording is clear though perhaps a bit on the dry side, but Innova’s usual compact presentation includes useful notes by the composer, and the cover art shows symbols drawn for each work done by Teresa Sekhon.

Dominy Clements

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