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Anna Clyne at Roulette

Music review
by Stephen Kaye
Thu Mar 30th, 2017

In a dingy yet airy performance space in Brooklyn just a block away from BAM, we heard a Brooklyn group of musicians play a concert devoted to Anna Clyne, a transplanted Londoner now living in…Brooklyn.  Despite the casual nature of this concert and its disorganization, it was a useful introduction to the interesting music of this young composer.  They failed to produce a program listing, so in the first half we didn't know the name of two pieces until afterwards..

Ms Clyne paints soundscapes.  She does that and more. She uses repetitions, but not of triads, like Part and Reich, and but of longer melodic material, which reduces the effect. But she is not defined by the language of minimalism; she works off a broad palette. She also uses electro acoustics.

“Rest these Hands” for solo cello was strong, flowing, and pleasantly repetitious.  It was played with feeling by Inbal Segev. 

The next two pieces were played by the Mivos Quartet. The first piece ran into interference from heavy electro-acoustics (humming and a breathy sound that could have been a dragon snorting). The music tended to the frantic, as if the pigs were loose causing cacophony and confusion. The piece was called “Roulette” in honor of the venue.

The second quartet piece was even more amplified, more earthshaking.  It might have been called “A subway train ran though it.” Suddenly, it became quiet with each instrument introducing a descending lament; there was a moment of transcendence when everything was revealed, then it stopped. This was called “Shadow of the Words.” You can hear excerpts.

The String Orchestra of Brooklyn, directed by Eli Spindel, played “Within Her Arms” and “Prince of Clouds” with members of the Mivos Quartet taking lead violin slots.  “Within Her Arms” conjures mood; it was doom-like, a voice of ethereal sorrow.  “Prince of Clouds,” called a double-violin concerto with string orchestra, is her best-known piece. It transports us to another world: mysterious, suggestive, rhythmic; the violins confer, converse, engage, get into a loop; there is a dualism, a back-and- forth; a bit of chaos with a soft exit. It was been recorded by Jennifer Koh and Jaime Larado and can be heard tat YouTube.

Anna Clyne has a rich imagination and a good handle on her music.  Her works have been performed by The Proms, the Chicago Symphony, and Bang on a Can.  She is producing a sizeable body of accessible work. She can be heard at music festivals in Schleswig-Holstein and Aspen; upcoming premiers will be held Italy, Austria, and the UK.  She has been commissioned by the Los Angeles and NY Philharmonic orchestras; she has a grant for an opera.  We will be hearing a lot more from this talented and accomplished composer.