Refractions and Refractions Vol. 2 are the first two installments in clarinetist/composer Gleb Kanasevich’s ongoing effort to record music for clarinet by emerging composers. Kanasevich, a native of Belarus now living and working on the US East Coast, has a firm grounding in classical clarinet technique as well as an adventurous interest in contemporary solo and chamber work. The exhilaratingly performed music on both discs amply displays his refined approach to the instrument as well as his discernment in selecting stimulating new material to play.
Most of the tracks find Kanasevich in an electronically fostered or altered environment. A good example is the opening track from the first volume, Kanasevich’s Zyklus Part One. The clarinet’s restless lines here are set out against a recorded backdrop of electronically manipulated samples of string instruments, as well as the sound of at least one other clarinet. Fay Wang’s Inside Insides for bass clarinet and tape, sets out electronic rumbling and hissing and occasional synthetic percussion against the warm, rounded tone of the bass clarinet’s lower registers. The harder-edged Nausea, composed by Brendon Randall-Meyers, creates a heavy rock sound–complete with synthesized drums—as a setting for Kanasevich’s suitably distorted clarinet. Ken Ueno’s I Screamed at the Sea, contained, like Inside Insides and Nausea on Vol. 2, has wind-like sounds punctuated by the amplified clarinet’s long, descending, trilled, bent, overblown notes.
In contrast to the more aggressive, electronically-driven pieces on Vol. 2, the first volume highlights pieces for acoustic solo clarinet. Alican Camci’s restrained Bosluk Ve Telafi, whose repeated long tones are interspersed with short bursts of notes, subtly integrates multiphonics and microtonal fluctuations into its melodic development. Viet Cuong’s Zanelle is an almost defiantly melodic piece that eschews extended technique, but nonetheless sounds contemporary with its leaps of register and intervals. Ignis Fatuus by Brazilian-born composer Rodrigo Bussad is an introspective piece that brings out the instrument’s melancholy shadings, which are intermittently broken by a shriek or whimsical skip and jump.
The one outlier is Steve Reich’s New York Pulse, included on Vol.2. Reich is hardly an emerging young composer, but the piece was influential on Kanasevich and his generation of composers.