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CD Feature/ Donald Bousted: "A Journey among Travellers"

img  Tobias
Some of the most widely respected works were finger exercises at the time of their creation. So it is by no means a disadvantage if “A Journey among Travellers”, Donald Bousted’s exemplification and exploration of the recorder’s microtonal capacities, has a decidedly educational character to it.

In the booklet, his liner notes put the basic ideas to each of the nine movements of this just under half an hour short composition into clear, to the point terminology. As if titles like “High”, “Sonata”, “Descent” or “Colours” needed any additional explanations! These pieces can be “understood” simply by listening to them, the development of a formal concept being part of the fun. Bousted doesn’t use idiosyncratic idoms to force his audience into believing he is smarter than them and the openness and warm functionality of his words turn him into a sympathetic fellow long before the first note is actually played.

This sensation increases after one has experienced time speeding by while listening to “A Journey among Travellers”. The implications of applied semitone-aesthetics aside, this is, from beginning to end, an imaginatively conceived, creatively arranged and passionately realised work with melodic hooks, stimulating timbral harmony and frequential friction, offering plenty of inspiration to performers and the general public alike.

One of the reasons for the contageous nature of what is still very much a serious piece of contemporary music can be found in the conciseness of Bousted’s style. Two minutes are mostly more than enough for him to make his point and if things do take longer, he always has something valuable to say to justify the extension. On “Descent”, Kathryn Bennets’ and Peter Bowman’s recorders spiral down in ”rigurously planned” yet pleasantly unforseable serpentines, while “Racket” plays with both sides of its titles’ linguistic meanings (noise and a tool for playing tennis).

“A Journey among Travellers” furthermore offers its audience several angles of approximation. Listening to the performers play with colours and glissandi, with pitch and modes of communication (chasing each other on “Double” and remaining inseperably connected on “Melody”) is just as interesting from a purely technical point of view as it is from a musical perspective. Or to put it differently: These pieces transcend the state of finger exercises and turn into daunting compositions in their own right.

What leaves the strongest impression is probably that Bousted does not consider the recorder an obstacle which he needs to overcome by his writing skills. This album really presents the strengths of the instrument in a convincing manner: The directness of its tone, its timeless timbre both harking back to days of yore and to the future, its ability to whisper and to scream. It is a compelling ode to what he believes will turn into “a major protagonist in the music of the 21st century”.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Donald Bousted

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