AMN Reviews: Michael Hersch/The FLUX Quartet: Images from a Closed Ward [New Focus FCR 199]

By design, Images from a Closed Ward, Michael Hersch’s cycle of thirteen movements for string quartet, is not easy listening. Hersch’s inspiration was a set of etchings and prints artist Michael Mazur created of people institutionalized in a mental asylum in Rhode Island in the 1960s. The music is accordingly disturbing—jarring, discordant, harsh and unyielding. Hersch leverages blocks of sound, deliberately out-of-tune harmonies and extended string techniques to convey a world unmoored and unstable, haunted by an emptiness and fundamental self-alienation. One can only imagine what those people experienced or how their surroundings impinged on them; Hersch’s composition provides sixty-five minutes of empathetic conjecture, which the FLUX Quartet realizes with a relentless power.

http://newfocusrecordings.com

Daniel Barbiero