In a 1994 New York Times piece titled, “Tonality is Dead: Long Live Tonality” musicologist Michael Beckerman cried out (I paraphrase ) that writing tonal music in the halls of Academia (Columbia University specifically in his case) in the 1960’s and 1970’s was tantamount to death. Imagine then, this being the second decade of the 21st century what composer Joshua Fineberg would encounter were he to write some innocuously pretty music that could inconspicuously play in the background while we visited with friends or played cards. Not to worry: Fineberg is safe. His music – not to say that it is ugly – is…well…not “pretty.” It demands for you to listen. Really listen. Daydreaming is not allowed.
Joshua Fineberg writes about his music as well as he composes it. His prose is dense and complex, and, once you are done reading his words you will want to settle down and listen to the music. Upon a first hearing one could wrongly ascribe the four selections in Sonic Fictions, a collection of compositions by this American composer, to just about any number of experimentalists. But make no mistake, this is quintessentially original music.
Absent harmony, melody and counterpoint – the centuries-old triumvirate of western music in operation from the Renaissance on, all we have left is pure sound: acoustic or electronic. And pure sound is delivered by Fineberg, in spades, in four exotically-titled compositions: “L’abime” (The abyss), “just as much entangled with other matter” (all in lower case, in case you wondered), “La Quintina”, and “Objets trouves” (Found objects). The four compositions clock in total at 63 minutes, averaging 10 to 18 minutes per, so, as I said before, plan on settling down before you put the metier (msv 28564) excellently engineered release on your CD player. You will be rewarded. I certainly was.
The players are beyond reproach: the Talea Ensemble on the first track, accordionist Pascal Contet on the second, the Arditi Quartet on the third and the Argento Chamber Ensemble on the closing one. All these artists walk dangerous territory bravely and elegantly.
Listening to this music reminds me of a Jorge Luis Borges short story that depicts an unending journey down a hallway lined up with doors on either side. The surrogate narrator/character (think Borges himself) would open any one of these dozens, hundreds, thousands of doors. Once opened. that door would reveal yet another hallway lined up with as many doors as the one before. The operation would be repeated ad infinitum leading not to nowhere but to unexplored new passageways down which the adventure seeker would wonder. That sort of journey to what is just beyond those doors is what Fineberg’s music evokes for me.
Rafael d Acha http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com April 4, 2018