THOMAS ROSENKRANZ: Toward the Curve [TrackList follows] – Thomas Rosenkranz, pianist & surround effects provided by the Oberlin TIMRA project – (2 discs) Blu-ray audio with 2.0 and 5.0 mixes in 24 bit/96kHz + CD, Oberlin Music OC15-02, 75:05 (two extra tracks on the Blu-ray disc) (5/12/15) [Distr. by Naxos] ***:

This is an interesting musical presentation featuring pianist Thomas Rosenkranz, a 1999 graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. The artist has enjoyed a long relationship with the artists and faculty of Oberlin’s pioneering Technology in Music and Related Arts group, (TIMRA) and this two-disc set offers contemporary piano music mixed with electronic sounds. This release includes a standard CD, and a Blu-ray audio disc that contains both a 2 channel and a 5.0 DTS MA mix. For this review, I listened to the surround version to more fully engage with what the artist expects an audience to hear.

This is music that demands a persons full attention. It is not background music in any sense. The piano is anchored up front, but many of the pieces involve electronic sounds, not always musical, coming at you from all directions. Think John Cage or maybe Brian Eno, but this music is more insistent than Eno and highly unconventional.

While there are several composers represented on the disc, I thought two representative works were A sound does not view itself as thought by Peter Svendsen and Timings and Collisions by Pierre Jalbert. The Svendsen is highly dissonant, and races at times, while the Jalbert has echoes of Debussy, but then the work turns darker.

Rosenkranz is a fine pianist, and these works are technically challenging. The electronics are harder to judge, as they are really often ’prepared’ rather than performed, but the combination of piano and electronics is, to say the least, an interesting effect.

The recording is fine, with some of the tracks of demonstration quality, owing largely to the use of the surround channels. It’s an interesting and dynamic collaboration between Rosenkranz and the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. I doubt this program will be to everyone’s taste, but I enjoyed the consistently fine playing and the imagination brought to bear on this project.

TrackList (for Blu-ray disc):

1 Interlude No. 1

Thomas Rosenkranz

2 A sound does not view itself as thought

Peter V. Swendsen, Thomas Rosenkranz

3 ElectroSonata: Spontaneous Combustion

Peter Flint, Thomas Rosenkranz

4 Interlude No. 2

Thomas Rosenkranz

5 Lullaby for Morning

Aurie Hsu,Thomas Rosenkranz

6 Vers la courbe

Michael Klingbeil, Thomas Rosenkranz

7 Timing and Collisions

Pierre Jalbert, Thomas Rosenkranz

8 Interlude No. 3

Thomas Rosenkranz

9 Three East to West

Alex Christie, Thomas Rosenkranz

10 Alex Christie, Thomas Rosenkranz

11 Alex Christie, Thomas Rosenkranz

12 The Piper’s Son

Tom Lopez, Thomas Rosenkranz

13 Interlude No. 4

Thomas Rosenkranz

—Mel Martin