Mary Ellen Childs’ music has appeared on the
Innova label before, and you can read a review of her Dream House
was written as a full-length dance piece for Carl Flink’s
Black Label Movement company. It “explores the depths of physical
and psychological endurance … [expressing] the ultimate question
of how we face death.” You can see a YouTube trailer for the production
This is undoubtedly very fine dance music, and the drums and driving
energy at the opening and further on make for something which lends
itself perfectly to dynamic movement. The piece is divided into ten
movements, and there is ample space for atmospheric sea-scape effects,
improvisatory sounding playing, and wide contrasts of texture and sonority.
There can be problems with this kind of applied music collection, and
doesn’t entirely escape mildly irritating elements.
The rather earnestly struck cymbals of the Wreck Theme
add to the scenic seascape on stage, but do us few favours here. There
are rhythmic movements such as The Lake
which have terrific energy,
but are musically rather thin and don’t really reward repeated
listening, unless you fancy dancing around a bit.
There are some fascinating moments however. The upward glissandi of
make for an intriguingly disturbing experience which
perhaps harks back to the drowning of Wozzeck
. I like the ‘theme’
music in its Duet for Wreck
manifestation and the more composed-sounding
material is pretty durable and often has considerable dramatic impact.
My favourite moments are the infinite soundscapes of the final The
, and in particular the tintinnabulations of Spirit Duet
but then, I was always a sucker for bells.
It all depends on what kind of narrative or effect you’re seeking,
and such pieces are always a collaboration so no doubt everyone was
happy with what they were given. I would personally have gone for a
less fragmented set of more extended arcs rather than a collection of
vignettes, but maybe that’s just me. Such a vast subject seems
to demand a more durable shape: perhaps two ‘acts’ of contrasting
atmosphere but related in a shared power which turns the audience into
more than mere spectators, exposing our collective mortality as a thing
of puny vulnerability. Oh well, today in 2013 it’s an oblivious
and media-anaesthetized zap culture not the scary voyage on which mankind
was embarking in 1913. This CD is provided in a slim card foldout which
carries skimpy but sufficient information. Recording quality is excellent.