The lineup alone places this disc firmly on the avant-garde continuum: a trio of violin, double bass and piano meets an alt-modernist percussion ensemble. As expected, the works on this disc reach beyond music towards concept art, although the blurb highlights the “politically charged” nature of the repertoire. This forces the listener to consider to what extent listening to such music constitutes political activism.
In the Piano Concerto of Anthony R. Green, the political individual maintains a presence in the collision of corporeal sounds and musical chaos, but there is little space here for experiential listening, let alone activism; the listener is merely left puzzling about what the single politically correct solution to these conceptual sonic enigmas might be. Pulsar by Eduardo Costa Roldán presents a musical version of the same challenge, the listener’s attention being mainly drawn by how the pulsation varies.
By contrast, the ritualist sounds pregnant with meaning in Memento mori by Emily Koh demand the listener’s immersion in – rather than cogitation of – a shimmering, modern version of an ancient lament. In Ice Concerto by Jarkko Hartikainen, the rhythmically melting spectral drama likewise invites the listener to marvel at the sonorities for their own sake rather than refracting the experience through the lens of climate change. The concluding work on the disc, Apollon by Alessandro Annunziata, proves that extra-musical references, when used sparingly in a traditional way, provide excellent anchor points for the listener in coming to grips with contemporary music. Thanks to the mythological title, the archaic percussion sounds and hymn-like tunes on the piano latch on to a familiar set of coordinates within which marvellous things then happen.
On the whole, this disc remains with the listener for longer than one would expect from its adventurous musical content, but its impressiveness is not because of activism or political relevance but because of the tension between music and concept art on the one hand and between political and absolute music on the other.
Strings & Hammers
Anthony R. Green: Piano Concerto: Solution. Eduardo Costa Roldán: Pulsar. Emily Koh: Memento mori. Jarkko Hartikainen: Ice Concerto. Alessandro Annunziata: Apollon.
The McCormick Percussion Group and Julia Keller, double bass, Eunmi Ko, piano, & Sini Virtanen, violin.
Ravello Records RR8037
Translation: Jaakko Mäntyjärvi