Monday, 18 May 2015

Post-minimal modes - music by Michael Vincent Waller

Michael Vincent Waller The South Shore; XI Records
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on May 8 2015
Star rating: 4.0

Music which has modes at its centre, by young American composer

This two-disc set The South Shore on XI Records offers a wide selection of recent chamber music by the young American composer Michael Vincent Waller. On the disc the musicians Conrad Harris, Pauline Kim-Harris, Esther Noh (violins), Dainel Panner (viola), Christine Kim (cello), Yael Manor, Charity Wicks, Nicolas Horvath, Maria Ilic (piano), Carson Cooman (organ), Katie Porter (clarinet), Luna Cholang Kang (flute) and the ensembles Red Desert, 20>>21 Ensemble and Dedalus Ensemble come together in a variety of combinations from solo to large ensembles to perform Michael Vincent Waller's music.

Michael Vincent Waller
Michael Vincent Waller
Michael Vincent Waller (born 1985) is a young American composer and visual artists who has an impressive avant-garde pedigree in his studies, having studied with La Monte Young, Marion Zazeela (the light artist, designer, painter and musician who sang in La Monte Young's group Theatre of Eternal Music) and Bunita Marcus who is strongly associated with Morton Feldman. Michael Vincent Waller's early work was mainly avant-garde, using microtonality and alternative tunings. His recent work, which has been described as post-minimalist, still preserves the interest in tunings but using alternate scales and modes.

The works on these discs have a clarity and approachability deriving from this espousal of Greek modes. Whilst textures might feel familiar, from minimalist composers, Michael Vincent Waller does not use the repetitions and process-based procedures that we associate with Californian minimalism. Instead he seems to be exploring a calmness and inner tranquillity which has an almost Zen-like feel.

That is not to say that this is trance music, you do sense something going on structurally and in the works for string quartet (Atmosfera di tempo) and string trio (Per la Madre e la Nonna) he creates intriguing patterns and textures with the interweaving of multiple lines of arpeggio figures. You sense that this is someone who is interested in the polyphonic nature of music, the interweaving of harmonic lines rather than just surface effect. I have to confess that the works for solo strings seemed to be a little too stripped down, the single modal arpeggio lacking sufficient emotional pull for my busy mind.

The instrumental combinations are, in the main, quite traditional but we there are also some intriguing ones such as bass clarinet and gong percussion duo (Arbitrage) and flute, alto saxophoone, electric guitar, viola, cello and trombone (Ritratto).

I did rather find the extensive booklet note by "Blue" Gene Tyranny a little flowery and elliptical (perhaps that is the point) and would have liked to know, for instance, how Michael Vincent Waller came to be writing for organ, and organ/cello duo.

He is blessed on this disc with a group of performers who seem to respond to his music and I rather suspect that the music's stripped down quality does not always make it easy to play. There is something quite seductive about some of this music and Michael Vincent Waller does seem to have a very distinct voice. The works on the disc relatively short and it would be interesting to hear a larger sale work.
Michael Vincent Waller (born 1985) - Anthems (2014) [2.31]
Michael Vincent Waller (born 1985) - Atmosfera di tempo (2013) [6.03]
Michael Vincent Waller (born 1985) - Profondo Rosso (2013) [4.42]
Michael Vincent Waller (born 1985) - Per La Madre e La Nonna (2012) [10.26]
Michael Vincent Waller (born 1985) - Pasticcio per meno e piu (2014) [5.27]
Michael Vincent Waller (born 1985) - La Rugiada del Mattino (2013) [4.15]
Michael Vincent Waller (born 1985) - Tre Pezzi per Trio di Pianoforte (2014) [8.24]
Michael Vincent Waller (born 1985) - Nome Nome di Gesu (2013) [8.57]
Michael Vincent Waller (born 1985) - Organum (2014) [4.26]
Michael Vincent Waller (born 1985) - Tacca Prima (2013) [3.49]
Michael Vincent Waller (born 1985) - Il Mento Tenuto Alto (2014) [8.57]
Michael Vincent Waller (born 1985) - Ritratto (2013) [6.58]
Michael Vincent Waller (born 1985) - La Riva Sud (2014) [9.52]
Michael Vincent Waller (born 1985) - Pupazzo di Neve Partitas (2013) [11.10]
Michael Vincent Waller (born 1985) - Variations for Quintet (2014) [8.05]
Michael Vincent Waller (born 1985) - Minaiatures (2014) [3.04]
Michael Vincent Waller (born 1985) - Y for Henry Flynt (2012) [12.50]
Michael Vincent Waller (born 1985) - Capo Finale (2012) [4.56]
Michael Vincent Waller (born 1985) - Vocalise (2014) [4.17]
Michael Vincent Waller (born 1985) - Arbitrage Deux (2013) [4.55]
Michael Vincent Waller (born 1985) - Arbitrage (2011) [4.09]
Conrad Harris, Pauline Kim-Harris, Esther Noh (violins),
Dainel Panner (viola),
Christine Kim (cello),
Yael Manor, Charity Wicks, Nicolas Horvath, Maria Ilic (piano),
Carson Cooman (organ),
Katie Porter (clarinet),
Luna Cholang Kang (flute),
Red Desert,
20>>21 Ensemble,
Dedalus Ensemble
XI RECORDS XI136 2CDs [67.57, 70.05]
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