Composer Richard Carrick releases a timely compendium of music for compact spaces which serves as an evocative and varied reminder of the way one can create sonic resonance with even the most sparing instrumentation. Featuring a distinguished group of performers, including Marilyn Nonken, String Noise, Margaret Lancaster, Vasko Dukovski, Either/Or, John Popham, Lauren Cauley, New York New Music Ensemble, Musicians of the Gugak Contemporary Orchestra of Seoul, Eduardo Leandro, Mivos Quartet, and Carrick himself.
|01||La touche sonore sous l’eau|
La touche sonore sous l’eau
|Marilyn Nonken, piano||7:45|
|Margaret Lancaster, flute, Richard Carrick, piano||1:04|
|Margaret Lancaster, bass flute||7:14|
|Vasko Dukovski, bass clarinet, Richard Carrick, piano||9:12|
|07||La Scène Miniature|
La Scène Miniature
|John Popham, cello, Richard Carrick, piano||1:16|
|Lauren Cauley, violin||6:28|
|New York New Music Ensemble, Musicians of the Gugak Contemporary Orchestra, Eduardo Leandro, conductor||5:58|
Space:Time - String Quartet #2
|13||III. Space Travel|
III. Space Travel
|14||IV. Coda - “into the light”|
IV. Coda - “into the light”
Composer Richard Carrick’s newest release, lanterne, is a compendium of music for compact spaces, a timely curation of recent pieces compiled amidst the extended COVID quarantine. Carrick’s vision for how to write for small forces is an evocative and varied reminder of the way one can create sonic resonance with even the most sparing instrumentation. Among the sources of inspiration for these works are themes of space travel, limited and limitless possibilities, Debussy and Camus, and traditional Korean Gugak music.
The album opens with pianist Marilyn Nonken’s performance of La touche sonore sous l’eau, a sensual solo piece that owes a debt to Debussy’s Jeux without overtly referencing the iconic ballet. The texture features watery ascending and descending arpeggios and accented goal tones that activate the piano’s resonance. Like Debussy, Carrick replaces the teleology of harmonic progressions with a multi-angled examination of textural gestures.
Two violin duos follow, both performed by String Noise (Pauline Kim and Conrad Harris, violins). Phosphène is built from a taut gesture wherein an ascending glissando played with heavy vibrato is stretched like a tight rubber band as it approaches the top of the slide. The second of the duos, Natural Duo, inverts the ascending gesture, interspersing a descending slide figure with brusque, accented notes. In both duos, repetition fulfills the function of increased emphasis and allows for additive textures that extend the rhythm and introduce embellishing material.
The one minute long une for flute and piano (performed by flutist Margaret Lancaster and Carrick on piano) unfolds as one single melody, intertwined between the two instruments. Inflected by microtones, metric displacement, and disjointed intervallic interjections, the brief piece presents itself as a quasi-primitivist dance and serves as a perfect introduction to the title work for solo bass flute, also performed by Lancaster. A focus on rhythmic structures similar to Gugak music can be heard here, developed through a repetition with variation approach to material. Techniques involving vocalizations and harmonics which articulate the overtone series lend lanterne an earthy focus, balanced by its propulsive presentation.Read More
Sarang Ga for bass clarinet and piano (performed by Vasko Dukovski and Carrick) represents a more explicit mining of Korean influence, specifically the Pansori vocal tradition. It also contains music written in graphic notation, an area of exploration that has become an important component of Carrick’s recent work, including his extended Graphic Series. The trajectory of the piece starts in the highest reaches, moving through a patient exploration of ornamental and embellishment gestures, through a low register reimagining of a Pansori melody that is alternatively brash and reflective, and closes with ecstatic, extended technique clarinet playing over a cacophonous din played inside the piano.
La Scéne Miniature for flute, piano, bass clarinet, and cello (heard in a concert recording at the Library of Congress by Carrick’s ensemble Either/Or) takes a murder scene from Albert Camus’ The Stranger as a point of inspiration. As in many other works on this album, Carrick prioritizes capturing the essence of expressive gesture over development in this evocative piece. We hear several different permutations of the four instruments in primary and secondary roles over the seven minute piece, culminating in a setting of an Algerian melody culled from Bartok’s early 20th century ethnomusicological fieldwork.
The next three works on the program are drawn explicitly from Carrick’s work with Korean traditional music. Danga features cellist John Popham with Carrick on piano; the title is a Pansori term for a short introductory piece — characteristic vocal inflections are transcribed for cello over tolling, bell-like piano chords. The solo violin work Seongeum, performed here by Lauren Cauley, is an extended manifestation of the same transcription principle of Pansori vocal gestures. Slides, overpressure, sul ponticello, grace notes, and several other ornamental techniques are used to powerful effect to capture the richness of this tradition of Korean singing.
sandstone(s), commissioned by the Pacific Rim Festival, is the only work on this recording that incorporates actual Korean instruments alongside Western instruments. Unlike many works for similar hybrid instrumentations that take a quasi-antiphonal approach, Carrick integrates the gestural and timbral language of the Western and Eastern instruments. The urgent, searing timbral quality of the Korean instruments is given enveloping harmonic support by the cello as the flute and violin engage in dialogue with the melodic material.
The final work on the album is the four movement string quartet, Space:Time, performed here by longtime Carrick collaborators, the Mivos Quartet, and funded by an award from the Fromm Foundation. Physical barriers to space travel are the thematic jumping off point for the work. Each movement experiments with musical parameters in slightly different ways. The first, “Claustrophobia,” zeroes in on central pitches as a taut texture swirls around them, employing harmonic glissandi and closely spaced intervals to simulate the pressures brought to bear on enclosed spaces. The second, “Gravity,” is a contrapuntal exercise; two pitches are volleyed across the ensemble in various registers as if to play with the physicality of weightlessness outside of the earth’s atmosphere. The third, “Space Travel,” is organized into a palindrome, as gradually accelerating wavelike gestures build towards a densely active center, before receding back to the relative calm of the opening. In a final coda that pays homage to composer Horatio Rădulescu, slow moving cantus firmus lines are embellished by intensifying swells.
-- Dan Lippel
Marilyn Nonken, pianist http://www.marilynnonken.com/
String Noise, violin duo http://www.stringnoiseduo.com
Margaret Lancaster, flutist http://margaretlancaster.com
Vasko Dukovski, clarinetist https://www.dukovski.com
John Popham, cellist http://www.johnpatrickpopham.com
Lauren Cauley, violinist https://www.laurencauley.com
New York New Music Ensemble https://www.nynme.org
Gugak Contemporary Gugak Orchestra of Seoul http://www.gugak.go.kr
Eduardo Leandro, conductor https://www.stonybrook.edu/commcms/music/people/faculty-and-staff/performance/eduardo_leandro
Mivos Quartet https://www.mivosquartet.com
Richard Carrick is a musician of wide-ranging vocations and proclivities, whose calling spans composition, performance, conducting, teaching artistry, education, lecturing, ensemble leadership, and curation. His reputation as an international leader in contemporary music rests on his tireless curiosity, intercontinental body of experience, and ceaseless exploration across disparate musical fields. His music is characterized by spatial depth and robust stasis; continual development and the evocation of profound human experiences.
Described both as "charming, with exoticism and sheer infectiousness" and "organic and restless" by The New York Times, Carrick's music is influenced by his multicultural background and experiences as well as his commitment to inspire professionals, audiences and youth through composition and live performance. His music spans beyond solo, chamber and orchestral compositions to include conceived works incorporating dance, graphic scores, multiple video projections, and group and conducted improvisation.
Carrick’s music has been programmed and presented internationally at festivals including NYPHIL BIENNIAL, ISCM World Music Days- Switzerland, Library of Congress, Enescu Festival, Pacific Rim Festival, Miller Theatre, Mid-American New Music Festival, and Darmstadt Summer Festival, and performed by musicians including the JACK Quartet, Mivos Quartet, Nieuw Ensemble, Wet Ink Ensemble, New York New Music Ensemble, Hyperion Ensemble, Sequitur Ensemble, Musica Nova, Hotel Elefant, Marilyn Nonken, Taka Kigawa, Margaret Lancaster, Vasko Dukovski, Jennifer Choi, Tony Arnold, Magnus Andersson, Steven Schick, Rohan de Saram, and others. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including a 2015-16 Guggenheim Fellowship in Music Composition and a 2011 Fromm Foundation Commission.
Carrick is co-founder and co-artistic director of the contemporary music ensemble Either/Or, declared 'first rate' and ‘a trustworthy purveyor of fresh sounds’ by The New York Times, and winner of the 2015 CMA/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming. As conductor and pianist, Carrick has worked closely with many celebrated composers including Helmut Lachenmann, Jonny Greenwood, Chaya Czernowin, Elliott Sharp, George Lewis, Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Iancu Dumitrescu, Robert Ashley, Karin Rehnqvist and Raphael Cendo. Carrick conducting E/O's ambitious performance of “John Cage Party Pieces” premiered 125 scores by renowned composers from around the world.
A teaching artist of considerable skill and experience, Carrick was instrumental in the development and expansion of the New York Philharmonic’s Very Young Composer program, in which he mentored hundreds of young composers to compose pieces to be performed by New York Philharmonic musicians (including pieces for full orchestra). His work in the program has expanded to include mentorship for young composers in Korea, Japan and the UK. As part of his work as a Guggenheim fellow, Carrick also founded a young composer program in both Israel and Kigali, Rwanda.
Carrick is the Chair of Composition at Berklee College of Music, where he directs the Neither/Nor Composer/Performer Ensemble, and teaches composing for dance and alternate approaches for structuring real-time music creation. He has presented masterclasses and lectures throughout the US, Canada, Holland, France, UK, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Israel, Rwanda, Japan and South Korea. Former posts include composition faculty at Columbia University and New York University.
His CD release, Cycles of Evolution, incorporates pieces commissioned and performed by Musicians of the New York Philharmonic, Either/Or, Sweden’s Ensemble Son, Hotel Elefant and String Orchestra of Brooklyn. Carrick conducts or performs on all works on this CD, which includes his 'apocalyptic' multimedia work for performers and video, Prisoner's Cinema. Carrick's first recording, also on New World Records, the “rich, beguiling” (The New York Times) extended chamber composition Flow Cycle for Strings, translates psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's 'flow' principle into sonic terms. Carrick's improvisation-based disc Stone Guitars (New Focus Recordings) garnered critical attention in both the new music and guitar worlds, causing American Record Guide to note 'it may change your perception of electric guitar'.
A US/French citizen born in Paris of French-Algerian and British descent, Carrick received his BA from Columbia University, MA and PhD from the University of California-San Diego working with Brian Ferneyhough, and pursued further studies at IRCAM and the Koninklijk Conservatorium. Scores distributed by Project Schott New York.http://www.richardcarrick.com
Marilyn Nonken is one of the most celebrated champions of the modern repertoire of her generation, known for performances that explore transcendent virtuosity and extremes of musical expression. Upon her 1993 New York debut, she was heralded as "a determined protector of important music" (New York Times). Recognized a "one of the greatest interpreters of new music" (American Record Guide), she has been named "Best of the Year" by some of the nation's leading critics.
Marilyn Nonken's performances have been presented at such venues as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Miller Theatre, the Guggenheim Museum, (Le) Poisson Rouge, IRCAM and the Théâtre Bouffe du Nord (Paris), the ABC (Melbourne), Instituto-Norteamericano (Santiago), the Music Gallery (Toronto), the Phillips Collection, and the Menil Collection, as well as conservatories and universities around the world. Festival appearances include Résonances and the Festival d'Automne 4both, Paris) and When Morty Met John, Making Music, and Works and Process (all, New York), American Sublime (Philadelphia), The Festival of New American Music (Sacramento), Musica Nova (Helsinki), Aspects des Musiques d'Aujourd-hui (Caen), Messiaen 2008 (Birmingham, UK), New Music Days (Ostrava), Musikhøst (Odense), Music on the Edge (Pittsburgh), Piano Festival Northwest (Portland), and the William Kapell International Piano Festival and Competition. Highlights of recent seasons have included performances of Hugues Dufourt's Erlkönig, Morton Feldman'sTriadic Memories,Tristan Murai's complete piano music, and Olivier Messiae's "Visions de'l Amen" with Sarah Rothenberg. Composers who have written for her include Milton Babbitt, Drew Baker, Pascal Dusapin, Jason Eckardt, Michael Finnissy, Joshua Fineberg, Liza Lim, and Tristan Murail.
She has recorded for New World Records, Mode, Lovely Music, Albany, Metier, Divine Art, Innova, CRI, BMOP Sound, New Focus, Cairos, Tzadik, and Bridge. Her solo discs include "American Spiritual," a CD of works written for her, “Morton Feldman: Triadic Memories,” “Tristan Murail: The Complete Piano Music,” “Stress Position: The Complete Piano Music of Drew Baker," and "Voix Voilees," music of Joshua Fineberg and Hugues Dufourt. She appears as concerto soloist in David Rakowski's Piano Concerto (Gil Rose and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project), Roger Reynolds's “The Angel of Death (Magnus Martensson and the Slee Sinfonietta), and Jason Eckardt's "Trespass" (Timothy Weiss and the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble).
A student of David Burge at the Eastman School, Marilyn Nonken received a Ph.D. degree in musicology from Columbia University. Her writings on music have been published in Tempo, Perspectives of New Music, Contemporary Music Review, Agni, Current Musicology, Ecological Psychology, and the Journal of the Institute for Studies in American Music. She has contributed chapters to “Perspectives on French Piano Music” and “Messiaen Perspectives 2: Techniques, Influence, and Reception” (both, Ashgate) and is currently writing a monograph on spectral piano music for Cambridge University Press. Director of Piano Studies at New York University's Steinhardt School, Marilyn Nonken is a Steinway Artist.http://www.marilynnonken.com/
String Noise, New York’s most daring violin duo comprised of violinists Conrad Harris and Pauline Kim Harris, has expanded the repertoire with over 50 new works since their debut at Ostrava New Music Days in 2011. Nearly a decade later, they continue to break down the boundaries of traditional expectations and inspire innovative compositions, displaying formidable virtuosity, integrating multi-media art, electronics, improvisation, video projections, opera and dance. Premieres by String Noise include works by George Lewis, Christian Wolff, Michael Byron, David Behrman, Alvin Lucier, John King, Phill Niblock, Caleb Burhans, Catherine Lamb, David Lang, Petr Kotik, Du Yun, Annie Gosfield, Bernhard Lang, John Zorn, Greg Saunier, Alex Mincek, Tyondai Braxton, Richard Carrick, to name some.
Cellist John Popham is a chamber musician and teacher based in Brooklyn, New York. His playing has been described as “brilliant” and “virtuosic” (Kronen Zeitung), “warm but variegated”, and “finely polished” (The New York Times).
Currently a member of Either/Or Ensemble and LONGLEASH, Mr. Popham has performed internationally with groups including Klangforum Wien, Talea Ensemble, and the Argento Chamber Ensemble. He has appeared as soloist with the Louisville Orchestra, the String Orchestra of Brooklyn, the Red Light Ensemble, and the Kunstuniversität Graz Chorus.
Recent festival appearances include Brücken (Austria), Open Musik (Austria), IMPULS (Austria), the Vermont Mozart Festival, USINESONORE (Switzerland), Bay Chamber (Maine), the Contemporary Classical Music Festival (Peru), Lucerne Festival, and Klangspuren (Austria).
Dedicated to new music performance, Mr. Popham has worked with composers including Pierre Boulez, Tristan Murail, Steve Reich, Nils Vigeland, and Reiko Füting. The recipient of a Fulbright research grant, Mr. Popham spent the 2013/2014 academic year in Austria, where he studied the performance practice of Klangforum Wien and worked with leading figures in contemporary Austrian music: Beat Furrer, Georg Friedrich Haas, Klaus Lang, and Pierluigi Billone.
Mr. Popham is currently cello faculty of the Extension Division of Rutgers University. He received his BM and MM from the Manhattan School of Music where he was a student of David Geber and David Soyer and was awarded the Manhattan School of Music Full Scholarship. He has recorded for Tzadik, Carrier, New Focus, Albany, and Arte Nova records.http://www.johnpatrickpopham.com
Eduardo Leandro teaches percussion at Stony Brook University in new York, where he is also the artistic director of its new music ensemble, the Contemporary Chamber Players. He taught at the Haute École de Musique de Genève and directed the percussion program at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst between 1999 and 2007. He has conducted some of the most important pieces of the twentieth century, including Schönberg’s Pierrot Lunaire and Chamber Symphony, Ligeti’s Piano and Chamber Concertos, Messiaen’s Exotic Birds, Xenakis’ Palimpsest, Boulez’s Derives I, and several premieres for mixed ensemble.
As a percussionist Eduardo Leandro has performed with ensembles such as the Steve Reich Ensemble, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and Bang-on-a-Can All Starts. He is part of the Percussion Duo Contexto, which was an ensemble in residence at the Centre Internacional de Percussion in Geneva for ten years. He played regularly with Ensemble Champ d'Action in Belgium, with Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, and with Ensemble Contrechamps in Switzerland, under the direction of Pierre Boulez, Heinz Holliger, and David Robertson among others.
Eduardo Leandro was born in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. He attended the Sao Paulo State University, the Rotterdam Conservatory in the Netherlands, and Yale University, having studied percussion with John Boudler, Jan Pustjens, and Robert van Sice.
American Richard Carrick’s phenomenal artistic abilities, including composer, pianist, artistic director and educator, are showcased in his sparsely orchestrated compositions.
Title track laterne, for solo bass flute, performed by Margaret Lancaster, is an exciting listen, with breath and voice vocalizations, booming sounds, repeated rhythms and held notes driving the intense climax and the final faster fade with closing yelp. Carrick joins her on piano in une, a short and sweet roughly one-minute musical delight! Carrick performs with bass clarinettist Vasko Dukovski in the Korean vocal-music-influenced Sarang Ga. A quiet start leads to abrupt low piano chords and wide-ranging bass clarinet accents, melodies with dramatic squeaks, and a very modern tonality “echo” ending. Three works draw on the traditional Korean Gugak music. Highlight is the unique ensemble colours that surface in sandstone(s), as Western (New York New Music Ensemble) and Korean traditional instruments (Musicians of the Gugak Contemporary Orchestra) perform together.
The four-movement Space:Time – String Quartet # 2, performed by the Mivos Quartet, is musical space travel. Movement I, Claustrophobia, recreates spaceship solitude, with high-pitched, almost painful tight dissonances, accents at the end of ascending lines and tension-breaking brief use of lower lines. Low pulling down grounding tones and floating high counterpoint drive the storytelling in movement II, Gravity.
Four additional works and other great performers complete this Carrick collection of beautiful intimate sounds to appreciate even in pandemic isolation!
— Tiina Kiik, 2.06.2021
Composer Richard Carrick studied in the US with Brian Ferneyhough (New Complexity) and further studies at IRCAM in Paris and the Koninklijk Conservatorium in The Hague. He has taught in many countries and nowadays, he teaches at the Berklee College of Music, combined with his activity as a composer, conductor and pianist. His work as a composer appeared so far on New Focus Recordings and New World Records with albums that feature ensemble Either/OR (‘The Flow Cycle for String’) and musicians from the New York Philharmonic (‘Cycles of Evolution’) as performers. Also, he has a solo guitar album out: ‘Stone Guitars’. He is co-founder of the Either/Of Ensemble with whom he recorded a program of works by Romanian composer Iancu Dumitrescu about five years ago. On his new release ‘Laterne’ Carrick presents eleven of his compositions, short and some ultra-short works for very different instrumentations. But they differ also in other aspects. The opening work ‘La touche sonore sous l’eau’ for solo piano – played by Marilyn Nonken – reminded me most of all compositions of a time past: early 20th-century classical music from France. Other compositions are linked with other places and cultures. This counts for the miniature work.
‘Sanga’, featuring John Popham on the cello and Carrick on piano. And also for ‘Seongeum’ for solo violin that has Korean connotations, inspired on Pansori vocal gestures and is vibrantly performed by Lauren Cauley. ‘Une’ is an example of the ultra-short compositions found on this CD; a short duet for flute and piano, performed by Margaret Lancaster and Carrick himself, closely chasing another in a melodic setting. The title track ‘Lanterne’ is for flute performed by Margaret Lancaster and is an intimate piece that stays in the lower regions and is accompanied by vocal expressions by Lancaster. Carrick is also inspired by literature: ‘La Scéne Miniature’ for flute, piano, bass clarinet and cello, performed by ensemble Either/Or, is inspired on a murder scene from the novel ‘The Stranger’ by Albert Camus. Overviewing all the compositions, this release gives an excellent opportunity to discover the diverse chamber music of Carrick. The dedicated musicians perform the works with energy and intensity, which makes this an inviting release to become acquainted with the musical world of the composer.
— Dolf Mulder, 3.09.2021
Right from the first piece, the piano La touche sonore sous l’eau (2015), it is clear that there is an emphasis on beauty here. Definitely Modernist at heart but with, perhaps as the French title indicates, a bent towards Impressionism, this piece represents Richard Carrick’s response to Debussy’s ground-breaking Jeux (after a period of intense study of that work). Layering is part of Carrick’s vocabulary here; it is actually the first movement of a projected suite to be entitled la touche sonore. (I have retained the lower-case initial letter, as that is how the score is listed; the New Focus recording gives a capital.) It’s good to hear it performed with such authority by Marilyn Nonken, who commissioned the work, and who also premiered it in January 2016 at the University of Pennsylvania.
The title Phosphéne (2001) refers to a phenomenon in which light is perceived without any light entering the retina: as Carrick says, “one might say it is a biological trompe l’oeil.” There is a version of the piece with video; the idea is to imply the experiences of seeing “moving red colors when facing the sun with closed eyes.” The performers here, String Noise (Conrad Harris and Pauline Kim, violins), absolutely make the most of the gestural nature of this piece in a performance of supreme confidence; the fairly close recording aids the visceral nature of the sonic imagery. Again for two violins, Natural Duo (2017) is based on the percussion piece Natural Behavior for solo percussion (1998); the atmosphere is lighter as each instrumentalist cuts into the flow of the other: chamber music sparring, perhaps.
Returning to the elusive side of Carrick, une for flute and piano (2011) takes a single melody (hence the singularity of the title) and presents it with a series of musical “obstacles.” Carrick has stated he wants the flute and piano to sound as one “meta-instrument.” That’s no small request, but Margaret Lancaster and Carrick himself succeed in no small measure. Playing now on bass flute, Lancaster offers a fabulous reading of the piece that gives the album its title, lanterne (2018; Lancaster herself premiered it in NYC in March of that year). The piece is underpinned by a quote from French poet René Char: “L’impossible, nous ne l’atteignons pas, mais il nous sert de lanterne” (“We do not reach the impossible, but it serves as a lantern”; my translation, offered with apologies). The core qualities of the bass flute—its mystery, its mellowness, and its effectiveness with breathy sounds—are all capitalized upon by Carrick. Lancaster offers a more than virtuoso performance, by which I mean that while one marvels at her playing, it is the atmosphere that is all-enveloping.
“Pansori” is a type of Korean musical storytelling. Based on a spectral reinterpretation of the Pansori melody Sarang Ga, the piece of that name is scored for bass clarinet and piano and was premiered by the present performer, Vasko Dukovski, in January 2019 at Miller Theater, NYC. The title refers to a South Korean type of musical storytelling by singer and drummer; here, the “voice” is the bass clarinet. Dukovski’s playing brings the piece to life, and his control at lower dynamic levels is remarkable—and how that contrasts with the grungy passages. This is a particularly exciting piece; one is soothed thereafter by the softer sounds of La seine miniature for ensemble. Here the literary catalyst was a scene in Albert Camus’s L’étranger in which the character Muersault’s impulsive action results in a sequence of unforeseen consequences. As the work is an imagined opera scene translated into an instrumental idiom, one wonders if there is a parallel to be made with Henze’s imaginary theater works. Decidedly gestural, Carrick’s graphic depictions of the struggle of the human spirit make for quite a ride.
Another piece that seems to prefer a lower-case opening, danga (2017, premiered that year in Fontainebleau, France) again takes us to South Korea: the end of the first measure in the cello part is indicated as “vibrato molto with Pansori style.” “danga” is the Korean word for a short warm-up song often used before Pansori. Carrick’s composition is short; its end leaves us hanging, with the space being filled by Seongeum (2015) for solo violin. Lauren Cauley is a simply superb interpreter, ever engaged with the discourse (and, indeed, with the frenzied dance-like sections).
The coexistence of traditional Korean music and Carrick’s Modernist expressive vocabulary culminates in sandstone(s) (2017) for flute violin, cello, haegeum (Korean fiddle), 12-string gayageum (Korean plucked zither), and eight-string ajaeng (another Korean zither-type instrument, but with strings of twisted silk). It was premiered by the current performers in October 2017. The title refers to a duality between sandstone (the rock) and sandstones (sand in the shape of stones one might make on the beach, and therefore much more temporary in nature). Dualities therefore lie at the heart of this piece, where the ancient Korean instruments meet our modern Western ones; similarly, melodies may be embellished in either traditional Korean or in Western ways. It is a fascinating score, not least because of how it plays with our expectations as listeners: The Korean instruments have encoded within their very sound an oriental quality that pulls us in one direction, while the Western instruments pull us back towards our rituals of the concert hall.
The quarter-hour String Quartet No. 2, Space:Time (2015) also exists in a version for electric guitar and string quartet (2018). It is performed here by the same ensemble, the Mivos Quartet, that premiered it in 2015 in NYC. In it, Carrick explores space travel (which is actually the title of the third movement). The four movements move from “Claustrophobia” through “Gravity” and “Space Travel” before ending with a “Coda into the Light.” The first movement concentrates on the stratosphere (in registral as well as symbolic terms); a more pointillistic aspect suffuses “Gravity” (brilliantly captured by the Mivos Quartet) before the palindromic “Space Travel” accelerates then decelerates, rising naturally to a climax and back again, dominated by a “keening” gesture. The last movement is designated as a “Coda” and pays homage to the music of Horațiu Rădulescu, gently expressive, before heading to a climax of complete chaos.
This is one time where tracing a composer’s formative influences is not particularly helpful. The two names that crop up are Mario Davidovsky and Brian Ferneyhough, but Carrick’s mature voice is a long way from either. The chamber music of Richard Carrick could hardly be better represented; all in excellently judged sonics, too. Recommended.
— Colin Clarke, 1.25.2021
French-born composer, conductor, and pianist Richard Carrick has had exposure in these pages on several prior occasions, receiving generally positive reviews. Art Lange in 35:3 gives some biographical details, so I won’t rehash those here. Carrick’s bio in the CD in hand states, “Richard Carrick … writes music of spatial depth and robust stasis, characterized by the evocation of profound human experiences.” I confess this didn’t really give me much of an idea of what to expect when I put this disc into my player, so I’m happy to report that he is indeed a composer with something important to say. The 11 works contained here are mostly rather brief (three of them are under two minutes in duration), although the closing four-movement String Quartet No. 2 is fairly substantial, running to about 16 minutes.
Marilyn Nonken, well-known as a pianist specializing in new music, opens the concert with La touche sonore sous l’eau. Given my extremely limited knowledge of French, I mentally translated this as “the sonorous underwater touch,” but Google translation yields, “the sound touch underwater.” I’d trust Google instead of me, if I were you, not that the exact translation of the title will affect your enjoyment of the piece one way or the other. It opens with a lot of filigree in the upper register of the keyboard, creating a rather scintillating atonal effect which I found quite mesmerizing. The airy figuration is frequently interrupted with dissonant and very effective chords, equally atonal and mostly down an octave or two. There is absolutely no metrical pulse in this work, and I wonder if it even employs bar lines. With the very minimal program notes and lacking access to a score, there is no way I can ascertain that. The work sounds devilishly tricky to play, but Nonken knocks it off with seeming ease.
For some equally unknown reason, Phosphène, a two-minute work for solo violin, lists no performer. Perhaps it is Lauren Cauley (who performs Seongeum later on), but that’s merely a guess. Whoever is playing is one impressive violinist. There are about three times the number of notes in this brief work as there are in any similar span of the Bartók Violin Concerto No. 2. Some of it even sounds impossible to play by just one player, but apparently there is only one person involved here. The notes state that the piece contains a “biological optical illusion,” but whatever that is in relationship to what I hear, I haven’t the faintest idea. I commend the composer for not just writing difficult music for the sake of difficulty, however: the piece has logic and direction and persuasively carries the listener along.
Natural Duo played by a duo named String Noise consists largely of a descending glissando and sequence of notes in one violin “accompanied” by pressure scratches in the lower register of the other. Whatever point the composer was trying to make is made succinctly. Another miniature is une, a duo for flute and piano. In its brevity, a unison line in the two instruments gradually diverges in interesting fashion. This one could have gone on a good bit longer, as it ended just as I was getting into it.
Much longer is the seven-minute lanterne, a solo for bass flute playing extended sequences of short repeated tones where the soloist is frequently instructed to overblow to produce harmonics. In a couple spots, flutist Margaret Lancaster seems to be gasping for breath, but I imagine that’s written into the score, as are other kinds of vocalizations. I’m pretty sure that you will have never heard any work quite like this one (a comment that could be applied to most of the other works on this disc as well). Contrary to my comment about the previous work, I think this one could be trimmed a bit to good effect. Or, perhaps I should say it is a bit overblown….
Sarang Ga begins with some very flute-like sounds that are actually performed on a bass clarinet if the tray card can be believed—and it does eventually become apparent that indeed it is this instrument. The piano part, played by Carrick himself, only is heard about three minutes into the work. Prior to that, the gradually descending solo line twists and turns in a fashion redolent of lines found in Middle Eastern music. Just before the four-minute mark, the piece takes a decided turn to rhythmic complexity, and a driving pulse comes to the fore. The cleverly constructed work, full of interesting non-standard techniques, is one of my favorites in the program, and its nine-minute length seems just right.
La scène miniature was written for the Either/Or ensemble that Carrick founded and conducts. The opening is reminiscent of that of une, a contemporary updating of the medieval practice of heterophony in which a basic unison line played by more than one instrument diverges here and there from the unison line. As in the previous works, there are unearthly sounds emitted by the ensemble. The piece is based upon a scene from l’étranger (The Stranger) by Albert Camus in which some impulsive action produces unforeseen consequences. Carrick’s work here is certainly anything but predictable, and I found it quite fascinating. Danga for cello and piano takes a more tonal approach, as it is based on the concept of Pansori, a Korean storytelling with music. In its brief duration of just over a minute one hears many Korean-sounding inflections in the cello line.
I also hear these in Seongeum, a six-minute work for solo violin, to the point that it took a few seconds to realize that a new work had begun. Learning the advanced techniques to bring off these glissandos of varying speeds must have taken some time, but violinist Lauren Cauley performs them with compelling assurance. In sandstone(s), the listener also hears the hybridization process Carrick has been using with Korean music, accomplished through the work’s skillful integration of Korean and Western instruments. His imagination is also particularly fertile in this work, making it another highlight on the disc for me.
The concert concludes with his Space:Time – String Quartet #2. Its four movements are given the intriguing titles of “Claustrophobia” (an eerie movement replete with high-pitched fear-inducing sounds), “Gravity” (indeed, a weightier movement full of musical “tugs”), “Space Travel” (another eerie movement with ghostly sounds), and the restless and unearthly “Coda – ‘into the light’.” The quartet is performed in splendid fashion by the Minos Quartet, for whom the technical challenges of the piece pose no problems.
This well-performed and -recorded disc is definitely oriented to the adventurous, those for whom the advanced techniques and sonorities it contains are welcome. If you’re in that select group, check this CD out as it ought to bring you as much enjoyment as it did me.
— David DeBoor Canfield, 5.28.2021
Inspired by the claustrophobic settings that Covid quarantining has given us, the progressive classical composer rounds up a bunch of like minded players to give airing to his latest works. A perfect Sunday afternoon wine and cheese recital recording, live it up and slice up some Wemslydale and quaff something better than Maddog to let the vibes properly flow on this mind expanding trip.
— Chris Spector
If all the composers on the Rossi/Cheng disc draw inspiration, one way or another, from Chile, another New Focus Recordings CD works in the opposite way, with a single composer pulling inspiration from multiple sources and using a wide variety of instruments to communicate his explorations. There is no doubting the cleverness of Richard Carrick’s chamber works on this disc, but being clever does not equate to being communicative: a lot of the music is of the “look how interesting this is” variety, calling attention to itself through approach or instrumental combination but not offering enough substantive content (in emotional or pure-musical terms) to repay multiple hearings. La touche sonore sous l’eau for piano is vaguely French Impressionistic in sound. The violin duos Phosphène and Natural Duo focus on ascending and descending glissandos, respectively – Carrick is fond of glissandos – and are repetitive enough to seem drawn-out even though each lasts only two minutes. At that, they are longer than une, which juxtaposes flute and piano and, of course, lasts one minute. The flute solo lanterne is seven times that length but wears out its welcome rather early, since again it is largely driven by repetition. Sarang Ga, for bass clarinet and piano, is conceptually more interesting, using various Korean influences in a progression from the woodwind’s higher reaches to its lower ones. It has an “experimental” feel to it, as if Carrick is trying to see what he can do with this sort of material using instruments of this type – without paying any particular attention to whether the piece conveys anything meaningful to listeners. La Scène Miniature is a more interesting instrumental blend, using flute, piano, bass clarinet, and cello. It is supposedly inspired by Camus’ The Stranger, but does not seem to be trying to extract anything in particular from that work. Then there is more Korean influence in three pieces for various players: the very short Danga for cello and piano, the much more extended Seongeum for solo violin, and the oddly titled but very interestingly scored sandstone(s) for an ensemble that includes both Western and Korean instruments and mixes them in some intriguing ways and to good effect. This is the most distinctive work on the disc and the one in which Carrick appears to show the greatest interest in audience communication, since he is at pains to blend and contrast the different instruments and their distinctive sounds in ways that will make listeners think about, and feel, the very dissimilar but equally expressive nature of Western and Eastern musical thinking. The final work on the disc is quite conventional in instrumentation. It is Space:Time – String Quartet No. 2, for the usual four string players. But the music once again delves into experimentation that is likely of interest to the performers, at the expense of producing audience involvement. The movements are called “Claustrophobia,” “Gravity,” “Space Travel,” and “Coda – ‘into the light,’” and each offers its own form of compositional cleverness: lots of Carrick’s favored glissandi in the first, counterpoint at various registers in the second, a palindrome in the third, and slow motion beneath swelling sounds in the fourth. Listeners who bother to discover, before hearing the quartet, what Carrick is intending to do, will find it far more interesting than those who simply want to listen to it as music. In fact, that is the case for much of the material here.
— Mark Estren, 10.01.2020