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Michael Byron: Dreamers of Pearl

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Audio CD, September 2, 2008
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Product Details

  • Performer: Joseph Kubera
  • Composer: Michael Byron
  • Audio CD (September 2, 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: New World Records
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #818,234 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Dreamers of Pearl: I. Enchanting the Stars
2. Dreamers of Pearl: II. A Bird Revealing the Unknown to the Stars
3. Dreamers of Pearl: III. It Is the Night and Dawn of Constellations Irradiated

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Michael Byron (b. 1953) was a pupil of James Tenney, and later, of Richard Teitelbaum. He has often been described as an "early minimalist." However, his work in that direction was relatively short-lived. In fact, by 1973, that tendency had all but disappeared as his music began its upward spiral of complexity. The body of music he has composed over the past thirty years has been harmonically rich, rhythmically detailed, and increasingly virtuosic. It has been described as a music of "absolute counterpoint". Dreamers of Pearl evinces a sensitivity for the sound of the piano, a sensibility of extended playing/listening, and an interest in repetition and change through gradual and seemingly clandestine processes that transform and extend what we hear. Dreamers... belongs to a rare class of recent piano music - monumental compositions of great length, beauty, and depth all self-consciously bound to tradition-oriented genres and their deeply ingrained structures, yet inventive and thrilling in ways that inspire a few brave pianists to dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to these often mercilessly difficult pieces.


Dreamers of Pearl is a 53-minute work for solo piano in three movements, individually entitled "Enchanting the Stars", "A Bird Revealing the Unknown to the Sky" and "It is the Night and Dawn of Constellations Irradiated". If those titles tempt you to load up the convertible with plastic pyramids and gaudy crystals and drive out to Pahrump Nevada to await the arrival of the Martians (don't take any doves along), think again. Michael Byron might be associated with the second wave of California minimalism moving away from strict process-based music towards what I once described elsewhere as "solid state" and much of his earlier work was luminously tonal, but Dreamers of Pearl is about as close to New Age ear candy as those "funny looking little critters" in Mars Attacks were to being ambassadors of interplanetary peace and love. The work's roots in minimalism are evident enough though, especially in the second movement, which moves through its clearly defined harmonic fields as patiently as Reich's Music for 18 Musicians, but the actual surface of the music is constantly changing, rhythmically irregular, and often tough and angular. Byron's music is fully notated, and the handsome 20-page booklet contains numerous extracts from the score which reveal its considerable metrical and harmonic intricacies (particularly in the first movement, in which the pianist has to negotiate a different key signature for each hand!), but sounds fresh enough to have been created in real time one wonders at times whether he's hit upon a way of getting his music software to transcribe and print out a recording of an improvisation, so naturally do the notes lie under the fingers. As such, Scelsi's solo piano music comes to mind, as does La Monte Young's Well Tuned Piano, a transcribed score of which wouldn't look all that different from Dreamers of Pearl in places. One wonders also whether Joseph Kubera, whose performance of the work is absolutely stunning, has learnt the piece by heart which would be quite a feat as it seems well nigh impossible to commit any of its myriad local details to long-term memory. But you could probably say that of the Ligeti Etudes too, come to think of it and Byron's music, like Ligeti's, is instantly recognisable, perceptually challenging, beautifully proportioned and deeply satisfying. Check it out. Dan Warburton

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By Bob K. on September 4, 2010
Format: Audio CD
I lack the musical knowledge and vocabulary to give a proper review of this work but fortunately, I've had some exposure to new music of this sort, enough to gain an appreciation of the composers and musicians that strive to create something new. That's what Dreamers of Pearl is, a new sound. A fifty-three minute work of intense piano music, it challenges the listener to concentrate on music that doesn't sound at all familiar. Yet, after five or six minutes, it does begin to sound familiar, and then you begin to hear things: a rhythmic pattern, a fleeting melody, a percussive accent, there -- and then gone, then again, no, changed, a different pattern, a different melody. These elements rise out of a steady cluster of repeating almost random notes, like a 3D image that emerges from one of those "magic" illustrations. That's just the first movement. The second movement has a less frenetic, romantic sound. The repeating sweet melody lines draw you in to to a hypnotic sound-scape but again, the subtle shifts keep you from getting too relaxed. The third and final movement takes on the mad clusters of the first and heightens the driving intensity. Instead of fleeting effects, the underlying clusters themselves begin to shift and move. The continuous complex storm of quick, jabbing tones, taking the pianist's fingers all over the keyboard, forces you to the edge of your seat as direction develops, then fades, then regroups. Relentlessly the storm rolls to a pinnacle -- and the piece is over.

Challenge yourself. Listen to some new music. Michael Byron's Dreamers of Pearl, performed by Joseph Kubera, pianist, is a fine example of the best that modern composers and performers have to offer.
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