Cellist Mariel Roberts's 'Nonextraneous Sounds'

Q2 Music Album of the Week for September 17, 2012

Monday, September 17, 2012

There was some hand-wringing in recent years over the future of new music, going something like this: With no dominant musical paradigm to rebel against, will today's young composers lack a certain edge? Won't they lose focus, now that eclecticism is the order of the day?

Cellist Mariel Roberts's solo debut, "Nonextraneous Sounds," demonstrates that any such anxieties were, to put it mildly, misplaced. The music on this disc, by a range of rising young composers, is nothing short of gripping from the first note to the last, and it's thanks largely to the intense focus of these highly individual musicians.

Andy Akiho, for one — a jazz/pop-influenced steeldrum player — could be a poster boy for the plugged-in eclecticism of the new scene, and the hand of a less sophisticated artist very well might have stirred all of his influences into some tepid muddle. But his Three Shades, Foreshadows, strips the infinite possibilities offered by the sound of prepared cello(!) and electronics down to the highly specific aural palette of a virtual percussion ensemble. And while the repeated figures of Sean Friar's Teaser metamorphose from classical cadence to rock riff and back again, he manages it without indulging in crossover-y cheapness.

Actually, it's difficult to imagine a composer more focused than Tristan Perich. The disc's most affecting piece, his twenty-minute Formations for cello with microchip accompaniment, drags the listener into the glorious monomania of Perich's ongoing "1-bit music" project, combining retro electronics with a musical language reminiscent of early "minimalist" process music.

These composers do ultimately have at least one thing in common: they've all paid extremely close attention to the sound of the cello. Daniel Wohl's Saint Arc and Alex Mincek's Flutter both grow out of the faintest whisper of a bow on string — in Wohl's case, into a luminous electronic soundscape; in Mincek's, into raw, even assaultive sonorities.

By playing a program this well-curated, with this much confidence, precision and good old-fashioned muscle, Roberts is not so much "making a statement," artistically speaking, as she is sounding an alarm. Listeners should come running. 

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Comments [2]

Thanks for the wonderful suggestion, Porter! We will bring this up with the writers themselves and ask if they would like their Twitter handles included in the byline or the bio at the bottom of the page.

Sep. 28 2012 12:50 PM

Now here's a perfectly typical comment from me. :)

With such a good job of criticism going on here from Daniel Stephen Johnson, I'm inclined to ask whether it's possible for Q2 to start adding Twitter handles to bylines? The handle doesn't have to link. It can simply be the "@"-symbol name. But it's a huge help when we go to get the word out about something great at Q2 if we don't have to spend time searching to find out whether a writer of a useful, informative piece like this is on Twitter. (As it turns out, I think Daniel isn't on Twitter, can't find a handle yet, but I've had to spend minutes looking.)

This can be real simple. I do mine this way:
Porter Anderson / @Porter_Anderson

And many, many of us in the writing community are learning to do this so that we can float more boats as we find and praise important work.

If you do this, we're able to tell so many more people about Q2 and its fine contributors (musical or writerly -- composers and players need their handles, too!) because we can all leverage the social media better with this info "lighting up" folks' names. When somebody doesn't have a Twitter handle, you simply list the byline without, and we know.

After all, I'd never think of writing Q2 Music on Twitter. It's @Q2Music! -- and that makes it visible and actionable by millions of people.

Thanks again for a good write and for these great tracks from Mariel Roberts' (handle? -- can't find one, lol).


Sep. 23 2012 12:42 PM

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About Q2 Music Album of the Week

Q2 Music's Album of the Week is our weekly review of the newest and most dynamic contemporary classical releases. It focuses on musical discovery, world premiere recordings and fresh perspectives on today's classical landscape. Read our review and stream the album on-demand for one week only at www.wqxr.org/q2music/


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