Almost Human. BEGLARIAN: I am writing to you from a far-off country; TALBOT: Motion Detector; Falling. Maya Beiser, cello, narration; Alexandra Montano, vocals. KOCH 7686. 54 minutes.
I’ve written before in praise of Eve Beglarian. Her music is pop-inflected and immediately accessible without being cloying. Maya Beiser’s recording of Ms. Beglarian’s I am writing to you from a far-off country cements that impression and shows a deepening of the composer’s art. I am writing to you from a far-off country is an eight movement piece for cello, narrator, vocalist and electronics based on letters by Henri Michaux.
According to program notes by percussionist Steven Schick, the piece grew out of a collaboration between the composer and the cellist, using Michaux’ letter (about the differences and similarities between his own country and one that, on the surface, should be exotic and unknown) as a basis for exploring their own musical personalities. The melodies of the piece come from Ms. Beglarian’s Armenian background, and their development and performance is a playing out of the balance between what Mr. Schick calls “what we know and what we sense”.
The soundworld of this piece is rich and it insinuates itself into your ears, head, and heart. The cello sound is distorted at times and at others it is pure. It is often difficult to distinguish between the cello and Alexandra Montano’s wordless vocals. The electronic “accompaniment” is rich and serene at the same time, and the few fast sections really stand out. The combination of familiarity and exoticism in I am writing to you from a far-off country creates a sonic dreamscape that will stay with you long after the piece is over.
The two compositions by Joby Talbot are good companions to the Beglarian work. They are both slow and insinuatingly expressive. Motion Detector is something of a high concept piece, with a constantly rising (and intensifying) glissando defining the gestural language, which partakes of post-minimalism far more than Ms. Beglarian’s piece.
Falling is an insistent response to the experience of loss, a fall. It’s long, arching lines define a more capacious musical space than we hear in Motion Detector. It is an expressive, haunting work.
Maya Beiser is an exceptionally gifted cellist. Her musicality, technique, and commitment show in every note she plays on this fine disc.