Jocelyn MORLOCK (b. 1969)
Stone’s Throw [7:28]
Nicole LIZÉE (b. 1973)
The Spins [3:42]
Olivier MESSIAEN (1908-1992) arr. Jennifer BUTLER (b.1976)
Le Merle Noir (1952) [5:47]
Jordan NOBLES (b. 1969)
Walking in Claude’s Footsteps [5:09]
Jared MILLER (b. 1988)
Guilty Pleasures [6:07]
Chris MAYO (b. 1980)
Oh come now! There is a beautiful place! [10:13]
Bekah SIMMS (b. 1990)
rec. Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, Vancouver, Canada
Reviewed as a digital download from a press preview
REDSHIFT RECORDS TK496 [49:25]
A question: what connects Claude Debussy, pop singer Justin Timberlake, Gličre’s 3rd symphony, Béla Bartók and 1980s British pop band Dead or Alive? The answer is this immensely entertaining album from Canadian ensemble Standing Wave!
The idea was to ask leading contemporary Canadian composers to reimagine favourite pieces of music – the notes supplied claim favourite 20th century music but Justin Timberlake’s Cry Me a River, the inspiration for Epiphora by Nicole Lizée, creeps over the line since it was released in 2002.
Never mind! As you can tell by my opening question the range of music taken for inspiration is certainly diverse. More importantly the project seems to have struck a chord with the composers involved as the results are most enjoyable.
They range from what is virtually a setting of Debussy’s Des pas sur la neige to Nicole Lizée’s other contribution The Spins in which the hit single You Spin Me Right Round by Dead or Alive is barely recognisable. The former piece is an absolute wonder of delicacy and sonority. The composer, Jordan Nobles, has a beautiful feel for the subtle shades of the Debussy original.
Christopher Mayo sets himself what might seem like an impossible challenge in compressing Reinhold Gličre’s mammoth
Symphony No 3 (all 78 minutes of it) into just over ten minutes but he pulls it off! More than that, I know which one I prefer. No offence to the Russian but Mayo’s version is much more entertaining.
The title of Jared Miller’s piece, Guilty Pleasures, touches in a significant way on my opening question. His starting point was China Gates by John Adams but the music quickly became suffused with the musical world of film scores and pop which he loved. This piece, and this album, asks a provocative question about whether composers of ‘serious’ music should feel guilty about enjoying less ‘serious’ music and by extension should listeners feel similarly guilty. Miller’s piece, like all the pieces on this disc, answer that question with a resounding No. There is a certain irony that in doing so they produce music that is marvellously entertaining and serious!
A case in point is Bekah Simms’ searching meditation on a passage from the third movement of Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta. Entitled Tenebrose, it is a dwelling upon the dark core of the Bartók yet wholly original. It demonstrates that this project is anything but trivial.
If Tenebrose provides the heart of the album, then Jennifer Butler’s take on Messiaen’s Le Merle Noir adds a little grit to affairs. Strictly speaking this is an arrangement but only in the sense that parts of Bach’s B Minor Mass are arrangements. To listen to it is rather like hearing someone draw myriad colours potential but unrealised in the original but in a way that supplements that original.
Even my least favourite piece in the collection, Stone’s Throw, by Jocelyn Morlock inspired by Glass Houses No
9 by Ann Southam, fits in well within the overall programme and provides a jolly if fairly derivative opener.
It is very rare for albums such as this one to cohere so well and yet there is scarcely a track here that dips below excellent and many go beyond that. The performers play a large part in this as they bring each individual sound world to vibrant life. Moreover they have been captured in sound that does ample justice to the colours they draw from the music. The album cover feature a psychedelic take on a vinyl record and for once cover and the contents of the album are in joyous harmony.