Ian David Rosenbaum’s newest album, Memory Palace, seems dedicated to suburban American nature. This is the natural world we tend to overlook: the crickets outside our windows, the small birds chirping from nearby trees and the wind gusting through chimes at mom and dad’s house. But Rosenbaum’s percussion, with pieces commissioned from half a dozen composers, demonstrates the lyrical complexity in these sounds.
This is clearest on Meadowlark, a piece in three movements composed by Tawnie Olson. It was inspired by – and includes recordings of – the western meadowlark. Olson was particularly inspired by the birds’ ability to hear two unrelated pitches at the same time.
That concept comes through with Rosenbaum’s expert marimba work, which has his hands working almost against each other in undulating rhythms. It’s both impressive skill and a heady reminder that we don’t know much about the world of the little birds around us, with their long ancestral history.
Then there’s the titular piece, Memory Palace, by Christopher Cerrone. The five-movement piece starts with a recording of crickets the composer made while camping with friends. Rosenbaum plays off the background of crickets using a variety of homemade percussion instruments, including pieces of wood, metal pipes and beer bottles. The third movement features a dreamy recording of wind chimes recorded at the composer’s parents’ home.
With this background, the 20-minute long piece has a personal feel. Rosenbaum makes mesmerizing use of the unusual instruments. Although the piece is clearly personal to Cerrone, Rosenbaum opens it up to all listeners with a mixture of sounds. The piece is at times ruminative, letting the listener think back on memory, and then bursts into jittery beats, as on the fourth movement, "L.I.E.," forcing attention back on the intense piece.
Ian David Rosenbaum: Memory Palace
VIA Records | Released Jan. 6
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