music of Ingram Marshall
performed by Todd Reynolds, Members of the Yale Philharmonia, The Berkley Gamelan, and Ingram Marshall
New World Records
September Canons for violin and electronic processing
Peaceable Kingdom for ensemble and tape
Woodstone for gamelan
The Fragility Cycles (“Gambuh”) for gambuh, synthesizer, and live electronic processing
The four works on this disc span the career of composer Ingram Marshall and provide keen insights into the organic, intuitive, and expressive sides to Marshall’s output. September Canons, from 2002, draws its inspiration from September 11 and features floating and mournful lyricism from violinist Todd Reynolds. The composition and performance have a timelessness about them. Everything unfolds at a slow yet deliberate pace with a certain amount of serene detachment.
Peaceable Kingdom (1990) blends a live ensemble with various atmospheric and musical recordings with excellent results. The audio narrative and interaction of live and recorded sounds are constantly compelling. Inspired by travels to Yugoslavia, one key motif is a recorded funeral procession and other sounds evocative of a funeral in a small village. I began repeated listenings of the work without knowing any programmatic details and was simply draw into the sonic world of the piece. The mixture of ambient/natural sounds and obviously recorded music makes for interesting interplay with the live ensemble. Many times the ensemble mixture with the recorded events was such that I wasn’t sure if they were “live or Memorex,” if you will.
Woodstone, a play on the title and theme of Beethoven’s Waldstein sonata, is an engrossing work for gamelan. The delicate and sparse opening morphs into more active and driving material that still keeps a slow yet steady pace towards its growth. This work does not sound like Beethoven nor does it sound like traditional gamelan music. It is pure Marshall. Like all other works on the disc, this piece grows organically and with a sense of long-term transformations.
The last work on the disc is also the earliest (Woodstone was completed in 1981). The Fragility Cycles (“Gambuh”) was finished in 1976 and sets the composer in a cloud of Balinese flute playing, Serge synthesizer sweeps, and live electronics. The rich flute tones and the droning synthesizer paint a foggy and abstract aural picture. There is a sensuousness to the sounds and a depth of timbral space that is plumbed throughout the work. In keeping with the other compositions included with this one, The Fragility Cycles sounds as if it could last forever. I certainly wouldn’t mind.
This reverse chronology highlights some of the core values present in the works of Ingram Marshall: longer compositions, often centered around a very limited sonic palette, but manipulated and paced with a keen and crafty ear. The sounds put me in a very specific and contemplative mental space. I enjoy this disc, this music, and what it does to me very much. If you are unfamiliar with Ingram Marshall’s music, this is an excellent first step. If you are familiar with Marshall’s compositions, you probably already own this.