AMN Reviews: Laurence Crane and Asamisimasa – Sound of Horse [Hubro HUBROCD2582]

laurence-crane_2400x2400-px-1024x1024Composer of a catalogue encompassing over eighty works, London-based Laurence Crane (1961) writes music of elementary parts and structures. The simplicity is deliberate; Crane has expressed an interest in taking simple pitch and harmonic relationships and recontextualizing them in order to renew their capacity to appeal to listeners, and to convey musical content.

The five compositions performed here, spanning the years 1998-2009, are based on drones, slowly unfolding melodies of a handful of notes, and harmonic cycles of as little as two chords. For example, Old Life Was Rubbish (1998), a slow-moving, short work for unspecified instrumentation (here orchestrated for electric guitar, bass clarinet and piano), centers on the simple motif of a unison line placed over a deliberately struck, slightly jarring piano chord. The nuance comes out in the scoring: The three voices blend into a composite timbre that seems to belong to a hybrid, as yet unidentified instrument. Even in the twenty-minute-long, seven-movement work Sound of Horse (2009), the musical material is simple and its exposition unhurried. The melodies consist in scales or scale fragments played in slowly descending or ascending sequences on clarinet or bass clarinet; long tones bowed on the cello; and broken chords. The effect can at times be hypnotic or liminal, with each musical object being differentiated from the others by subtleties of inflection or orchestration.

On all of the pieces, the palindromically-named Asamisimasa ensemble, a Norwegian new music chamber group, gives suitably uncluttered and fine-grained performances.

Daniel Barbiero