Posts Tagged ‘Allen Ginsberg’

Fanfare’s 2nd Album Review of Collision Point – “Crystalline Music”

January 22, 2020

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SUSMAN Camille1. Clouds and Flames 2. Motions of Return3. The Starry Dynamo4  —  1Piccolo Accademia degli Specchi (3,4Alessandra Amoreno, fl; 4Claudia Di Pietro, alto sax; 2,4Giuliano Cavaliere, vn; 2,4Rina You, vc; 2Assunta Cavallari, 3,4Fabio Silvestro, pns)  —  BELARCA 007 (47:01)

 

Back in Fanfare 38:2, I wrote about a disc of William Susman’s music entitled Scatter My Ashes. Like the current disc, similarly on the Belarca label, playing time was short, but a sense of fun and enjoyment of life was long. Susman’s minimalist tendencies are fully on display again in this release, itself entitled Collision Point.

Scored for flute, alto sax, violin, cello and piano four-hands, Camille (2010) is based on the Afro-Cuban clave rhythm, with 3+2 layered against 2+3 in the first movement, “Vitality”. Susman suggests the aural equivalent is that of Escher’s woodcut Illustrations, where the eye can choose to concentrate on wither white fish or brown fish; here, it is the ear that opts which division of the measure to concentrate on. Booklet annotator David Sanson puts it well when he refers to Susman’s music as a “labyrinth of rhythms, a perpetually moving trompe-l’oeil,” a statement that seems to fit particularly well with Camille. The contrasting second panel “Tranquility,” is like a slowly turning kaleidoscope, before the pulsating finale, “Triumph,” emerges. The work was written for the current ensemble and is performed with the sense of rhythmic cleanliness and exactitude minimalist music requires.

The 2010 piece Clouds and Flames finds the scoring reduced to piano trio. Seven short movements are inspired by events in Colum McCann’s novel Let The Great World Spin and also by the tightrope walk of Philippe Petit between the World Trade Center towers on August 7, 1974. The central theme of Clouds and Flames is remembrance and loss, nowhere more evident than in the fourth movement, “The Alphabet of Dying”. The title of the next movement, “Collision Point,” a restrained movement built on slow-moving piano against pizzicato strings, also forms the title of the disc as a whole. The scoring for piano trio gives the piece a brilliant sort of clarity completely different from the ensemble used or Camille; again, the performance is beyond criticism.

The two remaining pieces date back into the 1990s. Based on cyclical melodies and chord progressions, Motions of Return for flute and piano (1994) takes its title from Francis Bacon’s 1627 The New Atlantis and is, like Camille, based on the idea of illusion. The agile flute part is superbly rendered by Alessandra Amoreno; Fabio Silvestro is the most fluent-fingered of pianists. Together, they negotiate the tricky asynchronous passages with great confidence.

The disc is bookended by ensemble pieces, that for The Starry Dynamo (1994) only one pianist short of that used for Camille; the original clarinet part has been replaced here by the alto sax of Claudia Di Pietro to fit in with the line-up of Piccolo Accademia degli Specchi. And, as in Camille, it is an Afro-Cuban rhythm that forms the basis, this time especially the montuño, a repeated syncopated figure.  It is a poem by Allan Ginsburg, HOWL, that forms the inspiration for The Starry Dynamo, including the line, “angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night”. This is a work that, in one continuous movement of nearly 15 minutes, goes further than any on this disc to offer a sense of immersion into Susman’s world.

Performances are superb throughout, while the recording is perfectly judged, enabling the crystalline aspect of Susman’s music to shine through. Recommended.

Colin Clarke

Five stars: Performances are superb, while the recording enables Susman’s crystalline music to shine.

FanfareMagazine

Fanfare Magazine, March-April 2020 Issue

LISTEN HERE: Apple Music, iTunes, Amazon Music, Spotify and other streaming platforms

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Collision Point Reviewed in Fanfare

January 7, 2020

 

 

SUSMAN Camille. Clouds and Flames. Motions of Return. The Starry Dynamo ● Piccola Academia degli Specchi ● BELARCA 007 (47:01)

On the face of it this album of chamber works by the accomplished Chicago-born composer/pianist William Susman is very accessible, delivering ingenious variations on Minimalism’s familiar techniques from a confident and fertile musical imagination. But bit of exploration into Susmnn’s biography reveals an intriguing story, a capsule history, in fact, of where modern American music has traveled over the past decades.

Born in 1960, Susman studied both classical and jazz piano. He is probably the only performer who learned from both a student of Artur Schnabel’s (Pauline Lindsey) and a pianist with Louis Armstrong (Steve Behr). He founded his own jazz ensemble when he was 13 and later performed with big bands and Afro-Cuban groups. That’s merely the beginning of a complex web of influences that led him to gravitate toward Xenakis and Ligeti in the Eighties. At 25 he enjoyed a major breakthrough by becoming the youngest composer to be awarded a commission from Harvard’s prestigious Fromm Foundation. There were graduate studies in computer-generated music at Stanford and an invitation from Pierre Boulez to engage with IRCAM in Paris.

For a composer rooted in the European avant garde, using arcane methods based, for example, on Fibonacci sequences to generate rhythmic repetitions, his eventual encounter with American Minimalism came as an “aesthetic shock” and a kind of spiritual awakening. In a booklet note Susman relates that “The way Riley, Reich, and Glass incorporated the things they liked—Indian or African influences, for example into their music led me to think about the things I knew and admired.”

As listeners we are so accustomed to following our personal tastes that it might be hard to relate to a young composer tightly identified with mid-century Modernism (and receiving commissions and praise for adhering to that idiom), but Susman’s awakening moment was a kind of liberation. In a much publicized shift, another arch Modernist, the conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, had a similar conversion to Minimalism as a composer.

In none of these cases does the shift represent a move from complexity to simplicity. No one could be more theoretical than Glass or more steeped in the Modernist styles he rejected. The hidden texture inside today’s Minimalism consists of personal and private influences being brought to bear. For Susman, his style today is inspired by Afro- Cuban montuño, medieval hocket and isorhythm from the École de Notre-Dame de Paris, and jazz.

I’ve gone into these facets out of fascination but also to illustrate how these four chamber works came about—you couldn’t guess it by ear alone. The instrumentation varies from a duo for flute and piano (Motions of Return) to a standard piano trio with violin and cello (Clouds and Flames), with a sextet, Camille, and quintet, The Starry Dynamo, that call upon the largest complement of the Rome-based ensemble, Piccola Academia degli Specchi (Little Academy of Mirrors), which is flute, alto saxophone, violin, cello, and two pianists (they play four-hand in Camille). While listening to Camille, which opens the program, I thought that Susman should consider writing film scores, because he uses Minimalism to express a range of feelings that can be unusually tender or bold. My impression was justified, as I discovered later, because Susman has composed a number of award-wining film scores.

Needless to say, Minimalism has evolved into more than one thing, and for me, Susman’s version is appealing because it isn’t mechanical and the harmonic shifts don’t occur with glacial slowness. This is quick-witted music guided as much by emotional change as rhythmic and harmonic modulations. The flute and piano duo, Motions of Return, is necessarily fairly monochromatic, so here the focus is on rhythmic changes that might well be mathematically based. The quintet and sextet, since they use piano and alto sax, are more colorful and jazzy, I’d say, although Susman is capable of considerable surprise and unpredictability.

In all, I recommend this release to fans of Minimalism and more broadly to general listeners interested in an intriguing American voice. The performances are energetic and committed, the recorded sound excellent.

Huntley Dent

Four stars: An enjoyable and original version of today’s Minimalism

FanfareMagazine

Fanfare Magazine, March-April 2020 Issue

LISTEN HERE: Apple Music, iTunes, Amazon Music, Spotify and other streaming platforms

 

Checkout This New Album Trailer

September 1, 2019

Video artist Valeria Di Matteo created a stunning album trailer for Collision Point . Valeria also designed all the album artwork.

Enjoy more of Valeria’s work here!

Belarca Records presents Collision Point, a new album by American composer William Susman and Rome-based ensemble Piccola Accademia degli Specchi celebrating a 10-year collaboration.

Collision Point features music inspired by love, loss, redemption, and the writings of Allen Ginsberg, Colum McCann and Francis Bacon.

Streaming everywhere October 11, 2019.