Thursday, 12 October 2017

Post-minimal moods: Michael Vincent Waller's Trajectories

Michael Vincent Waller
Michael Vincent Waller Trajectories; R Andrew Lee, Seth Parker Woods; Recital Thirty Nine
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Sep 27 2017 Star rating: 3.0
Thoughtful introspective music from the young American post-minimalist composer

This new disc from Recital Thirty Nine explores the music of Michael Vincent Waller, a young American composer whose work I have reviewed before (see my review). On this new disc pianist  R. Andrew Lee plays four piano works by Waller and is joined by cellist Seth Parker Woods for two work.

Michael Vincent Waller is a composer and visual artist who has an impressive avant-garde pedigree in his studies, having studied with La Monte Young, Marian 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 this disc are very much quiet and contemplative, almost introspective. The opening  work on the disc by itself (2016) introduces us to the style with Lee placing down notes in a very considered and thoughtful way, creating harmonies by keeping the pedal down so that we get a whole variety of harmonics and overtones.


This style re-occurs in Visages, an eight movement suite from 2015 which presents eight faces of the composers musical personality.  The first is austere, like by itself, but others are more lyrical and melodic and start to evoke thoughts of Satie with a hint of jazz/pop in the melodic styles. I have to confess that the composer's tendency to place a chord down and repeat it, does sometimes make for a heaviness of texture. These eight pieces, though are varied and Waller's melodic gift is never less than evocative.

Next comes the cello piece, Lines, a substantial piece with an achingly lyrical cello part, supported by piano chords at first, but dissolving into more complex textures.

Breathing Trajectories is a trio of pieces, each of continues with the exploration of this trajectory of lyricism, and introspection, mixed with a more than a hint of jazz. Dreaming Cadenza seems to move into slightly different territory, and brings in a spiciness to the harmony. Finally Laziness is three short pieces where the aching lyricism of Seth Parker Woods cello returns.

The music on this disc has a thoughtful and reticent quality, for all the composer's melodic felicity, and it was the more austere contemplative piece which spoke to me best.

Michael Vincent Waller (born 1985) - by itself (2016)
Michael Vincent Waller - Visages (2015)
Michael Vincent Waller - Lines (2016)
Michael Vincent Waller - Breathing Trajectories (2016)
Michael Vincent Waller - Dreaming Cadenza (2016)
Michael Vincent Waller - Laziness (2015)
R.Andrew Lee (piano)
Seth Parker Woods (cello)
Recorded at University of Missouri-Kansas City 11-12 August 2016
RECITAL THIRTY NINE 1CD [76.37]
Available from Amazon
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