Archive for the “New World” Category

The World’s Longest Melody  CD cover art

music of Larry Polansky

various artists

New World Records

  • Ensembles of Note
  • tooaytood 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, and 11
  • for jim, ben and lou
  • “…getting rid of the glue…”
  • ivtoo
  • The World’s Longest Melody
  • Ontslaan (toontood)
  • toovviivfor
  • 34 Chords (Christian Wolff in Hanover and Royalton)

Various aspects of Larry Polansky’s music are given compelling and nuanced performances on this disc. The opening Ensembles of Note is a funky, rhythmic, semi-controlled improvisation based on a four bar rhythmic germ. When I first heard the disc, I really enjoyed the piece. It is quirky, it grooves, and the formal flow is natural and fluid (a gradual increase in the amount of activity). To my surprise upon reading the notes, the melodic materials are entirely improvised and only the rhythmic ostinato is given. Suddenly, my opinion of the piece and the performance skyrocketed. The ensemble has a wonderfully cohesive feel in their sound as well as to the shape of the piece. The music belongs to the performers as much as it belongs to Polansky and I think that is the right balance for a work that relies so heavily on improvisation.

The tooaytoods are all miniature miniatures (the longest being :24). Originally solo piano works, here they are electric guitar duets. Each tooaytood has its own internal logic, however brief, and each work as perfectly chiseled gems. Could they be developed into longer works? I guess so but I think that would crush their ephemeral beauty and wit.

My favorite composition on the disc is the trio for jim, ben, and lou for guitar, harp, and percussion. Each movement honors a composer important to Polansky’s compositional language (James Tenney, Ben Johnston, and Lou Harrison). Microtonality abounds in the trio and Polansky’s touch with this tonal palette is delicate, expressive, and extremely artful. No note, no matter the clash with other notes, sounds “wrong.” The reverence for these three composers is communicated at a very fundamental level in this trio. Just to contradict myself, the trio has a very light touch, too.  Simple formal structures, such as variation, are masterfully used. I’ve been listening to this piece a lot in the last few weeks. A lot.

The brief guitar solo “…getting rid of the glue…” is in some ways a flashback to how Polansky arrived at the style of these previous, yet more recent, pieces. Sparse pointallistic gestures create a timeless and directionless space. Harmonics, gentle humming, and detuned strings pass through this space created by the work. The next track, ivtoo, then sounds like the direct descendent of “…getting rid of the glue…” and the trio. Toon Callier’s overdubbed acoustic guitars form a cloud of active-yet-directionless harmonies and colors. It is as if a pizzicato fog has descended. The directionlessness is merely an illusion, of course, as the piece slowly and inexorably oozes into more tense and strenuous areas.

The ensemble version of The World’s Longest Melody (also the title of the trio movement dedicated to Lou Harrison but is not the same piece) rings in with epic power chords and drums. One might expect a power rock thrash will emerge but the piece stays fairly tame if that is your expectation. There is a cyclic and periodic repetition of ideas, a non-Western-inspired sense of form, that again has its own compelling logic. Similar temporal logic gets merged with Western harmonies in the next tracks Ontslaan (toontood) and toovviivfor. In Ontslaan (toontood) a very stock sounding chorale of electric guitars quickly gets warped and bent and twisted until almost beyond recognition (keyword: almost). toovviivfor uses a decidedly less comfortable and more abstract harmonic grounding and then proceeds in a similar manner.

Polansky’s musical language is naturally complemented by the guitar. The timbre works well to provide a clarity to his pitch/temperament choices and the resonance (or sustain in the case of the electric guitars) works well to enforce the mood or emotional tone of the pieces. The final track, 34 Chords (Chrisitan Wolff in Hanover and Royalton) is another reverent homage that exploits these facets of the electric guitar to great effect (and affect).

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Charles Dodge

a retrospective (1977 – 2009)

New World Records

It may be unfair to say that the genre of electronic music is one that ignores its history.  Of course that isn’t entirely true, there is always attention paid to the past, rarely does that attention manifest itself in the presentation of music more than ten years old.  Concerts that feature or include electronic music typically showcase the “newest in new” as if anything prior to 2004 is the sonic equivalent of day-old donuts, anything from the 1990s is “quaint” and literature found before 1980 is approached the way a music appreciation class approaches Machaut.

I know this is a brash generalization and a stunning example of hyperbole, but it is rare that the pioneers of electronic music are given much air time in concert halls when compared to acoustic composers who also paved the way for future generations.  And since fixed media pieces lack the element of performer interpretation, there seems to be no need to release a composition more than once.  That the work is available at all seems to be enough.

New World Records does a great service here by releasing a collection of works by the venerable master Charles Dodge.  Dodge, a paragon of the early American pioneers, is someone who made exquisite compositions from the digital equivalent of banging two rocks together.  Most of those early compositions, released on vinyl, haven’t found the larger distribution in part because earlier electronic compositions are not as valued as more contemporary pieces.  Sites like Ubuweb and the now defunct Avantgardeproject.org offer access to earlier experimental electronic recordings.  New World’s commitment to preserving, promoting, and distributing cornerstones of the genre is worthy of praise.

What about the music?  The bulk of the disc is occupied by Dodge’s seminal Cascando, based on the radio play by Samuel Beckett.  Cascando dates from 1977 and makes heavy use of the vocal synth/sampling techniques found in Dodge’s earlier Speech Songs.  Cascando is to Speech Songs, though as Reich’s Drumming is to Clapping Music.  Cascando’s texture is sparse and draws the bulk of its sound world from the speech synthesis engine.  My reaction to the work is similar to my reactions to much of Beckett; I don’t feel a strong narrative arc but I find the events compelling in and of themselves.

New World includes two other more recent compositions alongside the 30 minute Cascando.  Fades, Dissolves, Fizzles for fixed media, from way back in 1995, connects well to the older work and demonstrates a through line in Dodge’s compositional voice.  Fades, Dissolves, Fizzles is built from fairly plain and simple synthetic bell-like timbres.  The event language is similar to Cascando in that there is rarely a counterpoint of ideas.  Dodge favors single events and a slow unfolding of activity.  Fades, Dissolves, Fizzles has quite a bit more pep, though, as the active pseudo-gamelan textures that arise help motivate the narrative and provide formal continuity.  Fades, Dissolves, Fizzles is also strongly concerned with just intonation.  The pure timbre of the synth helps the tuning relationships shine through.

The final composition is the 2009 work Violin Variations for violin and computer, played here by Baird Dodge.  Again, just intonation and the slow unfolding of simple textures are the motivating factors in the construction.  The synth sound is subtly refined from Fades, Dissolves, Fizzles with more overtones and richer sonic fabrics behind each pitch.  The four movements rarely move past a contemplative affect, a faster tempo and pizzicato third movement help break monotony.  Like the other pieces on the disc, I don’t feel a sense of a traditional dramatic narrative but find the work sonically compelling.

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IVES: Selected Songs. Susan Narucki, sop., Donald Berman, piano. New World 80680. 57 minutes.

If Charles Ives’ piano music can be heard as expressing his philosophical ideas about living in America, and I believe that it that is certainly one way to hear that music, his songs (there are over 200 of them) can be heard as embodying his more day-to-day, closer to the ground observations about America, its place in the world, and American life.

This selection of songs is as good an introduction to the composer’s work in this medium as I have heard. Soprano Susan Narucki and pianist Donald Berman display a profound understanding of and identity with these songs. Ms Narucki’s voice is warm and powerful. She is a fine vocal actress, with a strong sense of rhythm and of poetry, and Mr. Berman is a sensitive and expressive accompanist.

Every listener will have his or her own favorites from the 27 songs given here, which were composed between 1897 and 1921. The program has a good mixture of some of Ives’ most famous songs, like “General William Booth Enters Into Heaven”, “The Greatest Man”, and “The Things Our Fathers Loved”, along with some that are maybe a bit lesser known, like “Songs My Mother Taught Me” (an inspired opener), “Where the Eagle Cannot See”, and “Feldeinsamkeit”.

The informative notes (always a valuable part of a New World release) were written by the performers, and their perspective is helpful for close listening. The sound is close and intimate. This is an important disc both for Ives fans and those looking to explore this chronicler of America.

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PACCIONE: Rhapsody; Stations–To Morton Feldman; Inscape: Three Choral Settings from Gerard Manley Hopkins; A Page for Will; Three Motets: Arabesques; Five Songs from Christina Rossetti; “Postlude,” from Planxty Cage. Molly Paccione, cl; Jenny Perron, p; Michael Campbell, p; Western Illinois University Singers/James Stegall; Nurit Tilles, p; Terry Chasteen, tenor; Moisés Molina, vcl; Andrea Molina, p. New World 80706-2. 57 minues.

[DISCLAIMER: I’ve known Paul Paccione and his music for many, many years. The following may be read with this in mind.]

Paul Paccione’s music has always been concerned with the manipulation of musical space/time. That is, Paccione reconceives musical geometry (x=time, y-space) as a canvas[1] on which musical objects are placed, like figures or brushstrokes in an abstract painting or drawing. These objects—chords and/or melodic gestures—retain their identity through repetition rather than development. Structure is projected through placement of objects at different coordinates on the musical canvas.

The result is a musical abstract expressionism that has developed over the years in surprising and gratifying ways. I first learned of Paccione and his music in the late ‘70s, when he was coming into his own as a disciple of Morton Feldman. His music at that time was quiet and sparse, with subtle melodic threads. His sense of color was (and is) so keen that a performance of his music gave a feeling of voluptuous austerity. In early pieces like Stations–To Morton Feldman (1987) the music is extremely spare—splashes of color on a blank temporal field, with a great deal of expressive silence.

In more recent years Paccione has embraced tonality, but his music still sounds like him. The Rhapsody for clarinet and piano (2005) is a good example. A lean piano part limns out a slow, non-dramatic chord progression in triplet eighth-note arpeggios while the clarinet plays lyrical melodic lines mostly above it. It’s as if the gentle triplets in the piano have replaced the blank canvas as a surface to be painted on.

The vocal or choral music Paccione composed early in his career was either wordless or was a setting of a short text that moved so slowly it may as well have been textless. In the pieces offered here, Inscape: Three Choral Settings from Gerard Manley Hopkins (2007) and Five Songs from Christina Rossetti (2003), the non-dramatic but lyrical presentation of the texts serves as a vehicle for the composer’s characteristic tone explorations.

My favorite piece on this recording is the Three Motets: Arabesques (1999), for four prerecorded clarinets. These motets are simple—contrapuntal in the extreme, they are made of short, tonally-enigmatic melodic gestures that are imitated by subsequent instrumental entrances. The result is a haunting, subtly and constantly changing soundscape.

The performances and recording here are of the highest quality. Paccione teaches at Western Illinois University, and most of the performers are his colleagues there. Several pieces were written for clarinetist Molly Paccione, the composer’s wife, and her readings show deep understanding of the music.

Highly recommended.


[1] Not unlike Elliott Carter’s “time screen” in concept, but very different in practice.

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Long Piano (Peace March 11)

Christian Wolff

Thomas Schultz, piano

New World Records

When faced with a work promoting a specific political or ideological slant it can be hard to find the line between art and propaganda.  Christian Wolff’s Long Piano (Peace March 11) definitely falls into the category of a politically-inspired work but the music itself remains austere and carefully detached from its surroundings.  Composed in 2004-2005, this hour long solo piano work is built largely of sparse gestures and thin textures.  The piece is constantly beginning anew and never fully coalesces in any one place for long.  Each fragment has its own internal life and motivations.  Thomas Schultz certainly had his work cut out for him in creating a coherent and linear performance of a work that is almost anything but.  Schultz is displaying a type of virtuosity that goes beyond pounding volumes and rapid arpeggios.

Never still enough to be ambient yet not directed enough to contain a typical emotional through line, Long Piano seems set on an eternal simmer.  It still manages to make you pay attention to it and simply hear its sound.

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September Canons

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.

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In Memoriam
Soloists, Valley Festival Orchestra and Amherst College Concert Choir
Lewis Spratlin conducting

Streaming: Quartet for Piano and Strings
Yvonne Lam. Violin; David Kim, viola; Christian-Pierre La Marca, cello; Xiang Zou, piano

Navona Records

“Sun, Sun, you bring us light. Never can we pay for the blessings that you give to us.” Thus begins a Mayan prayer to the Sun that calls forth an appropriately rhythmical choral setting by American composer Lewis Spratlan, concluding Part IV of In Memoriam. Earlier, in the course of the Mexican Serenade portion of Spratlan’s ambitious choral work, the composer waxes lyrical in a soprano/tenor duet: “And when I close my eyes at night / I hear the threadbare music / of your streets / and I fall asleep as if adrift / in the air of Sinaloa.” Here, the unmistakable echoes of Mexican popular song add to the enchantment of the nocturnal images in the poetry by Pablo Neruda.

Unfortunately, there are precious few instances of such perfect melding of poetic inspiration and musical setting in the 50-minutes length of In Memoriam, based on translations of Spanish language poetry by Neruda and César Vallejo. Spratlan’s professed aim is to celebrate the resilient spirit of the people of Mexico and Central America in their journey from pre-Columbian times to the present, in spite of an often tragic and bloody history, just as the land itself seems to be endlessly renewed by luxuriant foliage. That’s all well and good, although just how much a Miami, Florida native like Spratlan can be expected to understand an alien culture – to which he is not, unlike Neruda and Vallejo, an inheritor – could be debated. True, the Mayans made impressive achievements in art, architecture, mathematics, and astronomy, but they also practiced very bloody human sacrifice. That’s not so easy for a modern person to relate to! And future generations will require historical footnotes for references to “Trujillo” and “Somoza” in the revolutionary theme of Neruda’s “The Hero.”

The greater problem is that Spratlan basically employs a style of heightened declamation, a sort of tortured sprechstimme in American English, for the great majority of his settings. One hears this all too often in contemporary choral and vocal settings, and the effect is tedious in the extreme when carried over a long work such as In Memoriam. Free, unrhymed verse explodes in a spectacular profusion of imagery such as “The peace, the wasp, the shoe heels, the slopes / the dead, the deciliters, the owl, / the places, the ringworm, the sarcophagi, the glass, the brunettes, / the ignorance, the kettle, / the altar boy, the drops, the oblivion / the potentate, the cousins, the archangels, / the needle, the priests, the ebony, the rebuff, / the part, the type, the stupor, the soul”¦” (Vallejo). These things, to Vallejo, are part of the stored common memories that a poet must not forget, but how do you set them to music?

The sad truism that second-rate poets – the Wilhelm Müllers rather than the Pablo Nerudas – are more likely to inspire great music than the truly great ones would seem to apply here. Also, the live recording of In Memoriam, made in April 1993 in Buckley Recital Hall at Amherst College, is less than optimal in the clarity with which it registers the large forces employed here, 5 solo vocalists plus a chorus of 110 singers and 70 instrumentalists. There’s too much bleed-through in the moments of heightened intensity. The recording sounds as if it were intended for archival purposes, rather than commercial release.

“Streaming” for Piano and Strings (2004) benefits from a better recording, which is essential since so much of the effectiveness of the music is in its details. Spratlan claims to have aspired to something analogous to a stream of consciousness in literature, in which “ideas and images appear, merge, retreat, reappear changed, [and] jostle for place” (Spratlan), much as in the state in we emerge from sleep but are not yet fully conscious. With repeated auditions, the 16-minute piece appears less aleatoric (i.e., by random chance) than we might have at first imagined. A principle of form begins to emerge from the “buzz of consciousness” (Spratlan) that employs vivid contrasts between a beautiful, languid theme in the strings, like a slowly drifting cloud tinted by the colors of sunset, and bumptious, scrambling frenetic figures that threaten to overwhelm it.

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Tom Johnson

Rational Melodies

New World CD 80705-2

When he was a critic at the Village Voice in the 1970s, Tom Johnson (b. 1939) was one of the first writers to apply the term ‘minimalism’ to music. As time has moved on, many composers originally associated with minimalism have branched out stylistically; while certain gestural signatures may remain, the processes by which they created their earliest works seem to have loosened up considerably.

Johnson has moved on too. After leaving the Voice, he relocated to Paris. While active as a composer throughout his tenure as a journalist, since the 1980s he’s focused on music instead of words as his primary means of expression. Johnson has continued to write pieces in the minimalist tradition, retaining the genre’s early reliance on generative processes. One of his best known works, Rational Melodies, is a case in point. Composed in 1982, the melodies are single line compositions that have been constructed with painstaking care using various patterning models. Contour, rhythmic shape, meter, proportion, intervallic profile, and tessitura are all parameters variously mapped in these 21 pieces — hence the ‘rational’ portion of their title.

There have been two previous recordings of Rational Melodies, both for solo instruments. But the French Ensemble Dedalus has rehearsed them as ensemble pieces for an extended period of time. It’s interesting that, despite the attention paid to details of compositional design, Johnson has been willing to allow Dedalus to revise these works extensively. Some involve matters of a heterophonic sort of orchestration — deciding which instruments will play each given note was apparently an intrinsic part of the rehearsal process — while others actually create significant changes of register. There are even instances when an organum-like planing is added to the proceedings, creating momentary ‘music in fifths.’

Dedalus seems to know this music backwards and forwards. One can well understand why they’ve chosen to make Rational Melodies their debut recording. That said, it still seems a courageous decision on Johnson’s part to abnegate enough control to allow his music to change, grow, and in this case, prosper.

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Animating Degree Zero
James Mulcro Drew

Animating Degree Zero

New World Records


Animating Degree Zero; Bonaroo Breaks (Street Funeral Music); 12 Centers Breathing; The Lute in the Attic; Solemn Acts in Rain; In Memoriam J.C. Higginbottom
Performed by The Barton Workshop


For me, this was the right music at the right time. I didn’t know I needed to hear this music and, lo and behold! it arrived.   James Mulcro Drew’s music has an honesty and sensitivity that make it seem like a natural spirit instead of the construct of an individual.   Each work exudes purity of essence and unwavering commitment to the musical/emotional goals quickly set at the start of the piece.   Animating Degree Zero, for a large mixed chamber group, colorfully drifts along the ether while a single, un-transposed motive arrives periodically to ground us to reality.   The piece could go on forever with its tranquil and slow breathing pace.

Bonaroo Breaks (Street Funeral Music), on the other hand, has more of a sense of drive and direction.   The two trombones play through a modular improvisational framework that perfectly captures the sense of a New Orleans street processional.   The percussion is thin, simple, and extremely effective.   As in Animating Degree Zero, there is a purity of the compositional idea that oozes through the piece.   Not a note or gesture is out of place in the performance.

Twelve Centers Breathing for viola and percussion sounds like a template for the serene and expansive gestural language of Animating Degree Zero. Long, slow, sustained sounds with expansive pauses play out over the duration of the piece, never seeming to disturb the surrounding silences.   The flow of time is set at a hypnotically slow pace and it is hard for me to listen to the music and do anything else.

The biggest surprise on the disc is The Lute in the Attic from 1963.   Approximately 40 years the senior of any other work on the disc, this more expressionistic composition hints at the serene style that dominates the disc.   There are some shockingly aggressive vocal moments at times that made me think of Eight Songs for a Mad King. Drew’s piece, though, was written 6 years earlier.   Baritone Charles van Tassel does a great job balancing the smooth lyrical motion with the more harsh shouting eruptions.

The last two works, Solemn Acts in Rain and In Memoriam J. C. Higginbottom, return to the tender and blissful music found earlier on the recording.   Solemn Acts in Rain drifts along without much trajectory but it drifts along nonetheless.   The music floats around as if it were part of the ether.   The pitch language is somber, as you might expect from the title, with a mixture of contemplation and disquiet throughout.   In Memoriam J. C. Higginbottom follows up with the more mournful soundworld of a solo trombone in caverns of delay.   The long tones become a smearing, shifting, oozing chorale that, like so many other works on this disc, simply sit timelessly until the sound stops.   I think that even had I heard In Memoriam in a concert hall, I would still feel as alone as the trombonist.

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Io

Music for flute by Beyer, Vierk, Polansky, La Barbara, and Tenney

Margaret Lancaster, flutes; Beth Griffith, soprano; Larry Polansky, electric guitar; Matthew Gold, percussion

New World CD 80665-2

 Margaret Lancaster - Io

On io, Flutist Margaret Lancaster performs a program that spans nearly three quarters of a century. Despite this, most take the 1930s Ultramodernist tradition in American music as a point of referral.

Written in 1936, Johanna Beyer’s “Have Faith” is a brief, angular piece that presents the nightingale’s song in a fetching, somewhat spiky, costume; it is sung with pure tone and detailed care by Beth Griffith. This segues directly into the title piece, by Lois V. Vierk. Lancaster is joined here by Larry Polansky (playing electric guitar) and Matthew Gold (playing marimba). The material encompasses many of the slides and inflections of Gagaku, a subject of extensive research by the composer. Lancaster thrives with Eastern flair in the subtleties and characterizations demanded by the score. Meanwhile, Polansky and Gold articulate vibrant ostinati and pulsating drones. Thus, the piece supplies an East-meets-West, traditional music plus Downtown amalgam that is simultaneously distinctive and appealing.

Premiered in 2008, the most recent work on the CD is Joan La Barbara’s Atmos. Although written for multiple instruments and “sonic atmosphere” as a theatre piece, it still shows off Lancaster’s considerable dramatic flair as an audio-only presentation. La Barbara revels in the sounds of breath, manipulating both live performer and recordings to create a wide range of “wind shadings.” Other effects include percussive attacks, key clicks, and all manner of vocal utterances. La Barbara’s piece may be more directly influenced by Cage than Cowell or Seeger, but it is welcome for its inclusion as a stunning showcase for Lancaster regardless.

Another echo of the Ultramodernist school is James Tenney’s Seegersong #2 (1999). Tenney (1934-2006) used Ruth Crawford Seeger’s Piano Study in Mixed Accents as a basis for the piece, extending Seeger’s ideas about tempo flexibility (perpetuo mobile) to encompass some of the investigations into large-scale rhythmic design that engaged him during his late career. While all of this precompositional conceptualizing may be fascinating to insiders, the aural result is widely appealing: a skillfully written, artfully shaped solo flute piece. Lancaster affords it the precision its tricky rhythmic shifts require, all the while maintaining a sumptuous tone.

The CD closes with Larry Polansky’s five-movement work for solo piccolo entitled Piker. Taken from a reference in a 1935 letter by Marion Bauer to Ruth Crawford Seeger (“You’re no piker! But please drop me a card from somewhere!”). Generally, one might think that five movements of solo piccolo is four too many, but Polansky varies the part enough to keep things quite interesting, including microtones, devilishly difficult polymetric twists and turns, distressed Shaker tunes, and percussive foot stomps. Truth be told, Lancaster is joined by Polansky and Gold on the final movement of the piece, so it’s not strictly a solo work. But for many, it takes an artist of Lancaster’s caliber to make piccolo diverting for twenty minutes; a task she accomplishes handily here.

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