Tracy Silverman: “between the kiss and the chaos”; “Axis and Orbits” – Tracy Silverman (soloist & composer) with the Calder Quartet – Delos DE 3439, 57:20 (2/25/14) [Distr. by Naxos] ***1/2:
Composer Tracy Silverman is well known in musical circles. BBC Radio called him the “greatest living exponent of the electric violin.” Classically-trained at Julliard, he’s appeared on several of the the new-agey Windham Hill discs.
The album under review is called between the kiss and the chaos, and that is the title of the first work. It’s the kind of album I felt I was destined to dislike, but in fact my instincts were wrong, and the two compositions presented here are evocative and compelling. The works represent a fusion between classical, rock and jazz, but the result is quite unique.
between the kiss and the chaos is a five-movement concerto for electric violin and string quartet. It’s an impression of five famous works of art, including Michaelangelo’s David, Matisse’s La Danse, O’Keefe’s Red Poppy, Van Gough’s Starry Night, and Picasso’s Guernica. Soloist Silverman and the Calder Quartet do a fine job with this challenging contemporary work. It’s an interesting program idea, and the musicianship is very high, and the work is passionate and worth listening to. I especially enjoyed the syncopations and timing of the group in the Red Poppy, and I was also impressed with Starry Night.
I also enjoyed the mixture of sounds and techniques in Axis and Orbits, a four-movement work for electric violin and loop pedals, a digital sampler built into a foot switch. This work is far less programmatic than the first, but also interesting and introspective.
It is hard to judge the recording the way one would acoustic classical music. The electric violin has a sound all its own, and it doesn’t pass through the air as do the instruments of the string quartet. Same with the electric violin paired with loop pedals. In all cases the sound is precise without sounding brittle, and the console fed instruments sound to be in good balance with the live musicians.
This is an interesting and worthwhile disc for those looking for something uncommon yet not so avant-garde that is devolves into noise or atonalism. The music offered here is always interesting and remains melodic. Stereo separations are good which helps one pick out the musical textures. The disc is not a choice for a quiet evening with a few friends and some wine. It is a good pick for an intense listening session.