‘Invocations’ = CHRISTOPHER BONO: Invocation No.1 (Exhaust), Invocation No. 2 (Fish, Father, Phoenix), Invocation No.3 (Sunday Stills the Willow), The Missing, Invocation No.2 (reprise) – various ens. – Our Silent Canvas, 52:39 ****:
I always enjoy hearing music from a new composer or at least someone I have never heard of. Sometimes it is an exciting new revelation and sometimes it is interesting at best. Christopher Bono is new to me and comes from a very unusual background. Bono was at one point a top major league baseball prospect before injuries caused him to retool. He was not steeped in years of musical training. According to his website he took up guitar and song writing while rehabbing almost as an outlet. He then founded the experimental rock ensemble “Ghost Against Ghost” (a great name!) and began writing “serious” pieces of music in the early 2000s. This new CD, on his own label, features chamber music, mainly for strings that has a very meditative, almost religious, feel to it but also includes some fascinating ambient and electronic sources as well. I don’t know – yet – if Bono is that “revelation” and an important new compositional voice but this CD sure is interesting and makes you want to hear more.
First, for Bono, the concept of Invocations is an exploration of his life experiences and translating them into sound and phrase that hold meaning for himself and potential inspiration for the listener. It certainly holds the attention with its diversity. Invocation No. 1, “Exhaust” is mostly a tranquil, nicely scored string work that has a bit of minimalist impetus to it. The second, “Fish, Father, Phoenix” is quite different. There is a very nervous propulsion to the sound which is bolstered (or almost intruded upon) by recorded samples of his father’s voice, some ambient nature sounds and woodwinds and animal sounds. This odd mélange is also the longest of the pieces on this album. The “Invocations” close with “Sunday Stills the Willow” which returns us to a very calm, tranquil and meditative state. Bono states that each “invocation” is based on sections of a very private personal prayer. One gets the sense that Christopher Bono has a deeply religious side and reveals himself in small pieces and clues; take the symbology of the sub-title “Fish, Father, Phoenix” or the booklet art of the little boy dipping his hand in a bird bath (or is it a holy water font?) as examples. Regardless, this is a fascinating piece and the closing “Sunday Stills the Willow” is quite gorgeous.
The fairly brief Missing for string quartet is a pensive, somewhat sad sounding work and – according to a press release – has allusions to music of Haydn, Beethoven, George Crumb and Gloria Coates. I caught the brief moment that sounding like the frenetic demonic bow work in Crumb’s Dark Angels as well as some glimpses of Beethoven but, ultimately, I did not really catch all the references. I found this to be a pleasant enough work with some sincere emotion behind it.
This collection concludes with an instrumental only version of Fish, Father, Phoenix that stands on its own as a catchy para-minimalist work with some very attractive ensemble moments.
According to Christopher Bono’s website he recently completed a work for chamber orchestra, Bardo, and has begun work on an “electronic-ambient song cycle”, Oia. I found the music in this collection to be largely quite enchanting, in particular the Invocations 2 and 3. Bono is a very interesting composer with a – clearly – fascinating background and a very personal style. I look forward to hearing more and predict that he is certainly worth keeping track of!
Live premiere recording of Bruckner’s 1881-1884 Urtext Edition, 7th Symphony