Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Mysterious, sad, ecstatic music

My only exposure to the music of Kate Moore before I heard this amazing album was a single track on the 2012 Bang on a Can All-Stars disc Big Beautiful Dark and Scary. The track was called Ridgeway, and it was clever, twangy. It was picaresque: you felt like you were traveling places, one of which might have been Moore's native land, Australia. It got under your skin after a while, and then the reflective moments made you sad. It hurt a bit. Listen:

Now (or soon, rather: the disc will be released May 20, 2016) comes Stories for Ocean Shells, on BOAC's Canteloupe Records. This is a collaborative project with cellist Ashley Bathgate, who I knew from the excellent Bach Unwound by the composer collective Second Inversion. Moore and Bathgate* are obviously on the same page musically; watch and listen to Bathgate navigate Moore's complex cross-rhythms in Velvet, one of the stand-out tracks on the new album:

This is wonderfully tricky music. It's often euphonious, to my ears, though I wonder if Moore and Bathgate would think that's a compliment, since they seem more inclined to celebrate the occasional harsh edges. Velvet is apparently a reference to cloth in Renaissance paintings, so perhaps that's why I felt a softer vibe. When I heard that I called up this favourite painting by Jan Van Eyck, and admired it while I admired the music. For what it's worth, as they say. They also say, It can't hurt.

The album opens with the Walt Whitman-inspired "Whoever you are, come forth."
Whoever you are, come forth! or man or woman come forth!
You must not stay sleeping and dallying there in the house, though you built it, or though it has been built for you.
Out of the dark confinement! out from behind the screen!
It is useless to protest, I know all and expose it. 
This is passionate music, full of questions and yearning. It's melancholy, without wallowing in it; Moore introduces pizzicato textures occasionally to shine a bit of light, if not to expose everything!

It's exciting to hear a composer discover her gift, obviously in her element and in a true collaboration with an instrumentalist equally in her element. This mysterious, sad and ecstatic music, not without a sense of humour, bodes well for future projects for both, separately, or I fervently hope, together.

*Sorry for the interruption, but I'm a Canadian, so when I hear "Moore and Bathgate" I naturally think of the hockey players, Dickie of the Habs, and Andy of the Rangers. Sorry!

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