Neil Rolnick—”Traffic” from The Economic Engine
Neil Rolnick: The Economic Engine
As we cruise into 2009, talking about the end of genre divisions may be a yawn, but finding artists truly blending their influences with supreme confidence and tact can still be a challenge.
Emerging from the pile wearing the stamp of successful integration is Neil Rolnick with his new release The Economic Engine. To open the disc, Rolnick takes that often-plowed stock pairing of “East Meets West” and makes it all meld on his own terms. His efforts are impressively aided by the talents of Music From China and The Todd Reynolds String Quartet along with a healthy dose of electronic processing, but the honest and immediate feel of the work is likely rooted in the fact that though the timbres may be adopted, the language used doesn’t feel newly learned. The piece was born out of a personal response to his own trips to China and his reaction to how the nation’s economic growth is impacting the country, and the energy it contains—whether chaotic or joyful or menacing, or a bit of all that—bleeds through the speakers. Sonic tourism at its most insightful.
The disc’s next two works are not cross-culture projects, and in fact Hammer & Hair is a straight-up duet between violinist Todd Reynolds and pianist Kathleen Supové without a bit of electronic equipment in sight. Still, with a little extended technique here and a hint of jazz there, etc., Rolnick doesn’t hold tightly to the creed of any particular style apart from his own which keeps thing cohesive. Weighing in at 20 minutes, it’s a hefty offering, but it’s pastiche without any need for nose wrinkling.