AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Monica Pearce – Textile Fantasies [Centrediscs CMCCD 30322]

Textile Fantasies, composer Monica Pearce’s debut monograph recording, is aptly titled. Textures of various densities and timbral combinations, rather than more conventional melodies, dominate the sound of much of the music, which is largely scored for percussion instruments of various kinds.

The opening composition, toile de jouy for solo harpsichord, shows Pearce putting the ancient instrument to an unorthodox and decidedly modern use. Its delicate, staccato sound is conventionally associated with contrapuntal music, but here Pearce scores it to generate rough-hewn, opaque blocks of fortissimo dissonances. The piano and percussion duet leather, a heavily rhythmic work, similarly creates an almost unpitched-sounding lower register rumble with the piano, which Pearce sets into contrast with the bright timbres of gongs and other metal percussion. Velvet, for percussion ensemble, takes cascades of notes and repeated motifs on mallet percussion and places them against a background hum of thickening and thinning density. Perhaps the most novel combination of instrumental voices occurs in damask for tamboura, tabla, and toy piano.

Textile Fantasies also includes chain maille for percussion ensemble; houndstooth and silks, both for solo piano; and denim for two percussionists and two toy pianos.

Daniel Barbiero

AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Clocks in Motion – Oneira: Music by Jennifer Bellor [Aerocade Music AM012]; Stefan Schmidt – ruinenlust [Bandcamp]

August brings with it two very different kinds of music for tuned percussion.

Clocks in Motion, of Madison, WI, is a percussion ensemble formed in 2011. The group is a quartet with the three core members John Corkill, Christopher G. Jones, and Sean Kleve; on this album they’re made a quartet by guest percussionists Megan Arns on two compositions, and Kyle Flens on the title track.

All three pieces on Oneira were commissioned from Las Vegas composer Jennifer Bellor, who wrote them in collaboration with the group over a period of several years. There’s a certain consistency of sound tying the pieces together—Bellor writes music that’s harmonically accessible and rhythmically propulsive, even as it moves through multiple time signatures with beats divided into variably accented odd and even groupings. The orchestration tends to favor tuned percussion in which crisp, metallic timbres predominate. The opening track, for example, the three-movement Of Maker and Movement (2019), is scored for tuned pipes, glass marimba, glockenspiel, crotales, vibraphone, and cymbals, along with other instruments. Oneira, from 2021, is scored for MalletKat, two marimbas, and vibes, while This We Have Now (2020) is for MalletKat, drum kit, wind chimes, glockenspiel, crotales, xylophone, vibes, cymbals, and marimba.

On ruinenlust Stefan Schmidt, a prolific multi-instrumentalist perhaps best known as the creator of heavy ambient music, is an ensemble of one. The core of the six improvisations on his new album is tuned percussion—kalimba—looped and run through effects. There is the unmistakably heavy ambient sound of floating rhythm and stretched, resonant tones portentously overhanging a low-frequency abyss, but the darkness is leavened by the brighter, vibraphone-like timbres of multiplied and processed kalimba: imagine the sound of wind chimes at midnight.