I just listened to RING OUT, a BRIGHT SHINY THINGS CD (BSTC 0128) of the music of Jessica Meyer.
And before I get around to tell you how fascinating I find her work, let me preamble my comments, so as to make my enthusiasm more understandable.
Way back when, in the ages in which music making was not structured, codified and organized, but left to the spontaneous and the improvisatory, there was no one to tell a Greek shepherd or an Egyptian court musician or, centuries later, a wandering minstrel to put down their Aeolian harp or their pipes of pan and stop the noise. Music-making then was a spontaneous, self-initiated act always welcome in the court or in the village.
But the years passed, and the bulk of Greek and Egyptian music, largely improvisatory and passed orally from generation to generation was lost. And when Pope Gregory made the chants of the medieval monks conform to a set of rules and when, much later the Council of Trent bore down on liturgical music and made some official and some not sanctioned, the music of the west was set on a collision course between creativity and conformity that led to most of the compositions that now form The Canon.
The circuitous road above takes me where I want to take you: to music that is endlessly inventive, rules-defying, surprising, lyrical when called for, and even bluntly forceful at times. The composer is a young violist who not long ago decided that yet another gig playing her fiddle would not completely fulfill her artistic impulses. And then she wrote.
The BRIGHT SHINY THINGS CD, titled RING OUT is a plainly packaged, deftly engineered enterprise that yields terrific results in each and every one of its 11 tracks, starting with Meyer and cellist Andrew Yee in But Not Until, a fiercely written and played duet for their instruments. Dating back fifteen years the music of this brief composition is already imprinted by Meyer’s multi-tonal, free-wheeling, emotional sensibility.
In a three-part setting of spirituality-filled Rumi poems titled I Only Speak of the Sun I caught compelling modal riffs, rhythm irregularity, and snippets of melody all redolent of ancient Persian music, vigorously played by Meyer, Miranda Cuckson on violin, and cellist Caleb van der Swaagh
Scordatura is the purposeful mistuning of a stringed instrument – cello in this case – to achieve special effects. It is also what is asked of cellist Andrew Yee, compounded with bowing and plucking techniques that portray in musical terms a human tragedy that had a profound effect on the composer.
Seasons of Basho is a four-song cycle for countertenor (the excellent Nicholas Tamagna), viola (Meyer), and piano (Adam Marks). The four poems – Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter – are set to texts by the Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō that examine the ups and downs of love and all its vicissitudes.
Only a Beginning delivers highly-charged emotional music in a duet for viola and violin (Meyer and Cuckson).
The CD comes to a rousing ending with the words of Tennyson set against a mix of the vocalizations of eight members of Roomful of Teeth and a field recording that evoke the pleasantly chaotic simultaneous tolling and clanging of church bells on a Sunday morning.
There is an exciting music scene out there. If you travel to or live in one of the big cities, one with a rich musical life, you will be likely to encounter the music of Jessica Meyer. I just did.
Rafael de Acha http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com