Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday night listening

I came across a few clips from a new CD from British label NMC of music by David Sawer. I'd read the name many times, but never heard the music. Liking the previews, I decided on an impulse to download the whole thing. To date, I've don't think I've been disappointed in an NMC recording I've bought. They seem to have a great ear for variety and quality, so I was expecting a good buy. But...

Wow. (I get eloquent when I'm impressed.)

This is music that's bright, colorful, kaleidoscopically orchestrated, multilayered, complex, the whole package. Sawer hews to the postminimalist side of things, working with very simple, diatonic materials in a repetitive, obsessive, yet playful and lighthearted way. It's fun to listen to, and sounds like Sawer had a ball writing it, too. The closest thing to it in sound that I can think of is the chirpy friendliness of early Michael Torke, but that still doesn't come close, because there's more going on under the surface, and the forms Sawer creates have more byways and digressions, sudden turns and stops that give the music an expressive depth, as well as lending it a certain modernist tinge, yet blessedly without the angst. I listened to three ensemble/orchestra works from the 90s, Tiroirs, The Memory of Water, and the greatest happiness principle, leaving a longer, more recent opera suite for later in the weekend. I may be late to the party in discovering Sawer's music, but I'm enthralled by it, and it's nice to hear of a Briton who writes music of this aesthetic stripe getting big opportunities like orchestra and opera commissions. I hope this won't be the last Sawer disc I get to hear.

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