Paul Dresher: Casa Vecchia
"Four works... by one of the best and most original of post-minimalist
"Some of the most hypnotic music to come from his generation of renegade composers...
"Paul Dresher is perhaps the best of the postminimalist composers who
learned at the altar of Reich, Riley, and Glass... A gorgeous gem."
Dresher's music compellingly draws from a broad spectrum of sources, including
contemporary classical music, rock, minimalism, and his years of study
of the classical musics of India, Africa, and Indonesia.
This CD presents
the premiere recording of one of Dresher's strongest and most engaging
works. Commissioned and premiered by the Kronos Quartet, Casa Vecchia (performed
here by Vienna's Ensemble 9) offers a striking, convincing blend of the
best elements of minimalism within an evolving, cohesive structure. In
his introduction, John Diliberto writes that "There’s a solemnity...
that recalls the contemplative paths of Górecki and Pärt."
He then comments on the work's euphoric climax:
"Casa Vecchia builds
slowly and relentlessly over 20 minutes of arcing melodies until the
high speed compression at the end appears like a sling-shot acid rush,
breaking through to the other side."
Some excerpted comments from Dresher's
notes provide further insight into the piece:
"Casa Vecchia... was composed in the summer
of 1982 while residing outside a small village on the west coast of Tuscany,
Italy. The specific neighborhood was known locally as 'Casa Vecchia'
because it contained the ancestral home, now in ruins, of the former overlord
of the region. The piece is built upon a single twelve-note diatonic
phrase (or row, or cycle) whose specific note to note structure may be
varied by a few arbitrary rules determined by the composer. All the sections
of the work use the material of the row or its transformations. Each
section is defined and differentiated by a different polyphonic or contrapuntal
structure. Seen from this perspective, the work may be considered a kind
of variation set... Performing the work as a double quartet was entirely
idea of the conductor, Yuki Morimoto. He sent me a recording of his group,
Ensemble 9, performing it this way, and it clearly was an excellent transformation
of the work."
The CD opens with the hypnotic Underground, which originally
appeared on Starkland's compilation CD, From A to Z. "Atmospheric and otherworldly" (CMJ), it is perhaps Dresher's most ambient work. He writes:
"Underground... was created and performed
on a multi-track tape loop system designed for live performance and built
by myself and electronic technician Paul Tydelski. This system consists
of a four-channel tape machine with three playback heads located at various
points in the path of a single closed loop, all controlled by the performer
with an array of foot pedals and switches. The system allows a single
performer to develop complex harmonic, polyphonic or polyrhythmic material
without requiring the use of pre-recorded tapes... The work was recorded
in a single 'live' take."
The infectious Mirrors, performed by Bang on a
Can's Robert Black, deftly generates, weaves, and layers electronically
processed materials within a virtuosic, real-time performance. Dresher
offers some history of this piece:
"Mirrors, for Steinberger bass and electronics,
was commissioned by Robert Black. For several years Robert had been requesting
I compose a work for him... After I saw him give a virtuoso performance
and when he asked me to compose a work for electric bass and electronics,
I felt I could find a way to develop a piece. I was given an extended
loan of a Steinberger instrument which I immediately fell in love with,
and I met with Robert and surveyed in detail his techniques on both the
electric and acoustic bass, as well as the various opportunities presented
by his particular set of electronics. Early in the process, I made the
decision to continue my nearly religious interdiction against using pre-recorded
tape and to focus entirely in creating a work that is performed 'live.'
I have written this piece as much as possible in the spirit of my own
Other Fire skillfully processes and combines
environmental sounds into an evocative soundscape. Dresher writes:
"Other Fire emerged from eight months traveling
throughout South and Southeast Asia, with no particular goal other than
to see in their own cultural contexts the musics which I had been studying
and listening to for the past twelve years. These travels took me to
India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia,
Hong Kong and Japan. The tape recorder was running much of the time, recording
sounds of both urban and rural environments and performances ranging
from concert halls to all-night shadow plays to street musicians. The tapes
languished until 1984 when I received a commission from the Olympic Arts
Festival for a work for radio to be broadcast during the Festival which
ran concurrently with the Olympic Games in Los Angeles. This seemed an ideal
context to explore the material in these tapes; there are no synthesized
sounds in the work. The tapes were processed by a harmonizer, delay lines,
graphic equalizers, and the tape loop system described above. After the
resulting 25-30 hours of new tapes were catalogued, various sequences were
selected, assembled onto an 8-track recorder, and mixed to the final stereo
version heard here."
Fanfare’s review concludes that this "Starkland
release is an excellent introduction... [to] a significant emerging voice
in American music."
Read more about Dresher's Slow Fire CD.
Paul Dresher's music also appears on Starkland's Immersion surround
Visit Dresher's website.