AMN Reviews: Marc Yeats – Solo and Ensemble Music Volume 1 [Bandcamp]

Composer Marc Yeats describes his work as consisting in “time-code supported, polytemporal music.” It’s a complex, systematic kind of composition in which individual performers play independently of each other, each having been assigned his or her own tempo and given scores whose measures are divided into clock-time durations, all of which is coordinated by the individual performers’ digital stopwatches. The effect of this temporal asymmetry generally is a set of rapidly changing juxtapositions and overlaps of line and instrumental color. Solo and Ensemble Music Volume 1 collects six of Yeats’ compositions for ensembles of varying sizes, effectively demonstrating the diversity of sounds his method can generate.

The color contrasts made possible by Yeats’ system comes out particularly powerfully in the larger ensemble pieces. On The Unimportance of Events (2020) for a large, mixed chamber ensemble, Cutouts for Ensemble (2019) and 2019’s Liquid Music for Ensemble, which features clarinetist Gleb Kanasevich and an ensemble of oboe, harp, string quartet and percussion, brightly timbred voices weave in and out of a multihued, aural skein. Comforted by a Static Bond (2021), a duet for alto quarter tone flutes played by Carla Rees and Karin de Fleyt, is a more reserved, contrapuntal affair in grisaille. Although Yeats states that the piece, despite its title, wasn’t intended as programmatic, the sparseness of the duet format, underscored by the fact that both instruments speak with the same airy voice, lends it a consoling warmth. By contrast, Streaming (2014) for solo quarter tone and open holed flute, commissioned by flutist Carlton Vickers who realizes it here, exploits the instrument’s more aggressive, plosive side. Obscure Sorrows for Bb clarinet and violin—performed by Kanesevich and Daniele Colombo—sets violin glissandi and tremolo bowing against chromatic, register-leaping lines on clarinet.

Daniel Barbiero