NEIL THORNOCK: Between The Lines – Matthew Coley/ John Kizilarmut /Iowa State U. Percussion Ens./ Gerald Morris – New Focus Recordings #156, 65:00 (02/10/15) ***:
This disc gives us ten works by composer Neil Thornock. Thornock began his college-level music studies as an organist and carillonneur at Brigham Young University. He received a Doctorate of Music in composition from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in 2006. Many of his compositions grow out of performance opportunities on organ, carillon, piano, toy piano, and harpsichord. His interests also include electronic sound media (most recently, Huygens’ Workshop for toy piano and electronics) and growing interest in video.
The primary soloist is Matthew Coley. Coley has distinguished himself as one of the country’s most versatile percussion artists and educators. Performing on marimba, percussion, cimbalom, hammer dulcimer, and glass, he has performed as a soloist and collaborator with orchestras and ensembles throughout the US and abroad including the Millennium Chamber Players, San Francisco Sinfonietta, Kurpfalzisches Kammerorchester Mannheim, and Moldavian Philharmonic and Teleradio Symphony Orchestras. The works also include the Iowa State Percussion Ensemble.
This is a disc of contemporary music, all acoustic, and much of it dissonant. Think John Cage for something similar, and indeed, one of the works is dedicated to Cage.
This is not a casual sit down kind of program, but one that demands some attention and introspection. The recording is adequate, but not spectacular. Separations were a but subtle for my taste with this kind of music. I listened to the disc on my HiFiMan HE-560 headphones and liked the experience quite a bit better. Separation was greater and I had more of an “in the room” feel.
It’s not often percussion ensembles can stand on their own two feet for extended listening, but this disc generally held my interest. The performances are solid and committed. At the same time, I can see it being of minimal import to more traditional classical lovers. Still, the instruments are used in interesting ways.
6. Litany for John Cage
7. Ring the Heavens
8. Slow Lurgy
9. Whirling Lurgy