Bridge Records CD 9256
The term “Mild Violence,” a PG Rating on a video game box, inspired the title for a 2005 chamber work on Steven Ricks’ Bridge recital CD. Performed by the New York New Music Ensemble with characteristic élan, the piece features explosive percussive utterances, juxtaposing moments of pointillism with quirky ostinato and shimmering splashes of harmonic color. While one ‘gets’ the tongue in cheek humor, the music is anything but mild; Indeed; it’s stirring stuff!
Ricks runs the electronic music studio at Brigham Young University in Utah. Two works for chamber groups and electronics are included here. “Boundless Light” is a meditation on the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Featuring shakuhachi-styled effects and vigorous electronic interjections; one is reminded of Davidovsky and Krieger here. It’s excellently rendered by Carlton Vickers. “American Dreamscapes” features the most thrilling moment on the CD – a swelling crescendo of electronics that introduces an ensemble tutti of considerable fervor. The piece features alto saxophonist John Sampen; who impresses with all manner of playing – including copious bends, microtones, and altissimo notes.
The Talujon Percussion Quartet performs “Dividing Time;” the piece’s background deals with the Divisions of time at the beginning of creation.Cleverly, Ricks uses overlapping polyrhythms to illustrate this inspirational focus, accumulating a rhythmic canvass of considerable flexibility and coloristic variety.
Curtis Macombcer is the “go-to guy” for violin-electronics pieces. “Beyond the Zero,” based on Pynchon’s “Gravity’s Rainbow,” contains sudden outbursts of fury, uncommon to the Synchronisms. But after an early focus on ‘effects’ – an explosive musical illustration of the V2 rocket from Pynchon’s novel, Macomber is given a great deal of angular electroacoustic interplay of the high modernist variety – his bread and butter. The piece is an excellent addition the solo plus electronics repertoire.
The CD closes with “Haiku,” a tenderly evocative piece for percussion and electronics. Spoken poetry is interwoven with prayer bowls and tam-tams, creating and ethereal, Eastern-influenced soundscape. Its inclusion is fortuitous; it allows us a full length glimpse at a talented composer of considerable versatility.