Here (and there)
Crystal Springs (2011) [10:48]
Swirling Sky (2011) [6:23]
green is passing (1999 rev 2006) [9:45]
Summer Phantoms: Nocturne (2011) [11:06]
Confetti Variations (2012) [18:09]
The pleasure of being lost (2012) [13:20]
Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi (piano)
rec. June 2012 Harwood Recital Hall, Russell Fine Arts Building, Henderson
State University, Arkadelphia, AR. Fixed media parts recorded variously
in 2011 and 2012
INNOVA 846 [69:30]
Pianist Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi has inspired a number
of contemporary American composers to write for her and this disc showcases
some of those composers and their music. All of the pieces include electronics,
but all remain approachable, sometimes indeed cinematographically so.
The recital celebrates music, therefore, that is far from the furrowed brow of modernity. Philip Schroeder strikes a rather minimalist posture in Crystal Springs for piano and mixed media, a tripartite construction supported by electronically manipulated bass sounds. The central section is a touch more jagged and allusive, but we end with a return to the stirring drive of the opening paragraph. The nature writing of most of the works’ titles gives some clue as to the impulses that drive some of the composers, some of the time at least. In Swirling Sky, Ed Martin evokes the adventures that follow the shapes and curls of clouds and, more specifically, how the eye - hence ear, in this context - conjures up these visitants, variously clement, active, gaunt, and excitingly driving. This imaginative piece of sky colour and motion makes a real mark on the aural imagination.
Jeff Herriott’s 2006 revision of his 1999 green is passing (oh dear, lower case) is electronically enhanced. Gently spaced out and reflective, its ten minutes pass painlessly, in the best sense. If you want to experience electric flashes and an almost interrogatory level of electronic intervention, then turn to Brian Belet’s Summer Phantoms: Nocturne. Here the electronics are more pervasive, certainly more intrusive than elsewhere. The piece may be a nocturne but it’s not without a strong sense of unease. Brahms and Feldman may seem to make antagonistic bedfellows but these are amongst the pianist’s most admired piano composers. To this information, Tom Lopez responds with his Confetti Variations (2012). Lopez manages to cram quite a bit into his long, 18-minute opus. I sense the ghost of Brahms’s Paganini variations, as I do Feldman’s obsession with symmetries; the consequent composition has considerable drive and colour, is laced with storm music, and an alternation of emotive states generating its own structural fault lines. Finally, after fixed media percussion, we are treated to the sound of birdsong. The final work, by Jim Fox, witnesses the speaking voice of Janyce Collins reading a text derived from the writings of Joseph Dalton Hooker, a friend of Darwin. This is the most filmic of all the pieces, replete with bell tones, plangent chords, and atmospheric allusion. It ends the disc on a new note.
Astolfi’s championing of these works is laudable, and her selected composers offer contemporary but often tradition-conscious variations on the theme of solo piano and electronics.