Originally a student of history before he refocused his efforts into music, Robert Carl’s interest in time, memory, and space are veins running through his compositions, his work more given to conjuring imagery than narrative plot. And whether inspiration is mined in the wake of a seascape or travelers on a speeding bullet train, the resulting music tends to carry a distinct organic beauty and rich, encompassing depth.
Shelter, composed by Bang on a Can founders Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe, is a seven-movement evening-length oratorio sung for this recording with crystalline precision by vocalists Martha Cluver, Mellissa Hughes, and Caroline Shaw (yes, that Caroline Shaw) alongside Ensemble Signal (Brad Lubman, conductor).
Presented in chronological order and spanning a period from 1963 to 2007, the works included on From Moog to Mac demonstrate the process of experimentation and development that Herbert Deutsch went through as he created work for Bob Moog’s iconic synthesizers and then on into computer generated sound.
Would I have been able to smell the sea salt in the air quite so powerfully while listening to a recording of Mary Ellen Childs’s Wreck if I hadn’t already seen the image of a man face down in the water that graces its cover? Possibly not, but knowing that at the outset, I swear I could feel the waves crashing against the boat and a brisk ocean breeze hitting my face.
If there is any way to distill the wide-ranging artistry of Matana Roberts, it might be to focus on the ways in which she eludes definitions. The Chicago-raised composer, improviser, and alto saxophonist offers a friendly yet confidant smile as she explains, “Basically, I don’t like being told what to do, or who I am, or what I am by other people. I prefer to make those statements myself.”
It’s easy to get caught up in the role text and stories frequently play in Elliot Cole’s compositions, but the core of his inspiration turns out to trace more of a pendulum swing: insider vs. outsider, text-rooted vs. pure sound, composer vs. performer, a musician dipping his toes into a wealth of styles and methods along the way.