David Glaser: Kinesis
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The music of David Glaser has been an interesting and rewarding discovery for me. Glaser (b.1952) hails from New York, and studied with Mario Davidovsky, George Edwards, Martin Boykan, Jacques-Louis Monod, and Jack Beeson. Doubtless drawing influences from each member of this stylistically diverse group, Glaser has synthesized his own artistic voice, which has produced works that employ everything from lyrical lines to advanced compositional techniques. I would describe him as, perhaps above all, a colorist, with a keen ear toward extracting sonic possibilities from each of the instruments that he employs in a given work. The works are stylistically consistent from one to the next. From the very first frenzied notes of his Catalyst, I realized that I was in store for a treat. Catalyst produces an aural illusion (if there can be such a thing) as well: The effect, especially of the opening, is that there are more than the specified four instruments (flute, clarinet, cello, and percussion) involved. The piece constantly shifts in its moods; the frenetic opening gives way to a section of gentle, almost dissonant counterpoint, which in turn becomes disjointed with much leaping around among the four voices. In Convergence, a work for flute, violin, cello, and guitar, what impresses me especially is the interesting way Glaser moves between metrical regularity and irregularity. The effect is both novel and arresting. His handling of the guitar suggests that the composer plays the instrument, which he has in fact studied. Moonset No. 1 is scored for the almost unique combination of voice and clarinet. The sung part is a vocalise, the composer's intent being to explore the relationship between the musics of voice and instrument. Indeed, the voice is treated so instrumentally that it becomes essentially an instrument. The main difference between the two parts is the vibrato employed by the soprano versus the straight tones of the clarinet. There is a good bit of disjunct motion in both parts, but the piece strikes my ears as largely melancholic. Gold-Vermillion is the only work in the present recital to use a piano, which is joined by a flute and alto saxophone. In the opening, the piano is given the lion s share of the rhythmic activity, with syncopations undergirding the jumping lines in the two winds. Saxophonist Marshall Taylor tends a bit toward a jazz style of playing in his part, which contrasts nicely with the strictly classical approach of flutist Patricia Spencer. There are long stretches of this work where only two of the instruments (flute and piano, or saxophone and flute) are playing, providing nice contrasts in texture. Kinesis takes both its inspiration and its title from the work of visual artist Linda Plotkin, whose piece of the same title graces the CD booklet. Glaser has written that he considers this composition to be a sonic equivalent of the central element spiraling up and folding over itself, found in Plotkin's work. At 16 minutes, the five-movement work has some of the most rhythmically and tonally complex music on the CD. Scored for guitar and string quartet, it is not the usual guitar quintet one typically encounters. Here, the guitar is one among equals, primarily employed to add its distinctive color to those of the bowed instruments. Particularly striking is a section around the one-minute mark of track 7 where the instruments are given figures in clusters that rapidly alternate (not as trills, however) between one note and its neighbor. If your ears are tuned to the aesthetic of such diverse composers as Arnold Schoenberg, George Crumb, and Elliott Carter, I am confident that you will thoroughly enjoy the innovative and rewarding music on this CD. Performances are uniformly excellent, as is the very life-like recorded sound. Another winner from Albany. --Fanfare Magazine (Sept/Oct 2012)
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The other works on the disc are also interesting, especially Catalyst, which starts off sounding like some kind of minimalist piece but quickly turns into a kaleidoscopic study in instrumental color.