A sharp double inhalation, then silence. Another breath masks the attack of a plucked string, distorted and warbling, as it morphs into a bowed long tone. We hear slight pulses and clicks lingering in the background, and then, out of nowhere, a close-mic'd voice begins -- "A clockwise... " -- and is promptly, emphatically shhh'd.
This is the beginning of Anna Clyne's pensive "paint box," the opening cut off of Jody Redhage's debut CD, all summer in a day. For this record, cellist and singer Redhage -- who you may have heard in new music projects like Pulse, Tactus, Capital M, Ensemble Pamplemousse, or performing her own music at coffeehouses and other singer-songwriter venues -- commissioned eight composers to write new works specifically for her. For the title track, Jody also contributes her own driving, rustic setting of lines from Ray Bradbury's short story.
Each composer represented takes a very different approach to the challenge of writing for cello and voice. Electronic processing and in-studio manipulation often comes into play, everything from simple overdubs and a judicious use of reverb to the apocalyptic soundscape of Wil Smith's "Crushed," which drives relentlessly towards a full-core meltdown, then allows the five words of Josh Chapman's text -- "i have crushed and shattered" -- to blow in the air like floating fallout.
Other composers opt for a more traditional "art song" approach -- David Hanlon uses the music to accent the quirkiness of his chosen text, Davey Volner's "The Egg," while Derek Muro's setting of Frank O'Hara's "Did You See Me Walking" uses a bed of city sounds and folk-like melodicism to bring out the poem's wistfulness, while downplaying the ironies of lines like "Did you see me walking by the Buick Repairs?" Jacob Cooper's "Postlude," with words by Yuka Igarashi, is circling and elliptical, like the poem's "glad abandoned orbit."
Judd Greenstein's "Corrupted" takes a somewhat fragmentary approach -- the composer's short text is stretched out by repeating words and phrases, while the music's rising figures are constantly rebooting themselves, ascending for short groupings of 3, 4, or 5 notes before dropping back down again. Paula Matthusen's "of minutiae and memory" (click to listen/download) is an elegiac-sounding Norwegian prayer set amidst fluttering bursts of clicking electronics, bowed tremolos, and harmonics.
The most gripping performance is of Ted Hearne's "Warning Song" (click to listen/download), based on a text by Meghan Deans. The piece gradually assembles an additive groove from plucks, pulls, slaps, and fragmentary bowed double-stops, before abruptly shifting into a sustained bed of slow-moving low-register glisses over a repeated, unanswered question. Jody's playing is especially gritty and impassioned on this cut, and her normally clean, clear voice keens and wails with intensity.
The CD release show for all summer in a day takes place tonight at Galapagos. The event kicks off at 7 PM with a set by guitarist Marc Dancingers (who I saw not long ago at the Chelsea Art Museum with Soundbook One), followed by it's not you, it's me (Caleb Burhans, violin and Grey McMurray, guitar), and then Jody will close with live performances of all of the music from the CD. Cover is $5 (suggested).
A copy of this recording was provided by the artist for review purposes. MP3s are posted with the permission of the artist.