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CD Feature/ Michael Vernusky: "Blood that sees the Light"

img  Tobias

In a still fairly recent interview, Ned Rorem complained about the fact that most contemporary composers care all about sound and arrangement and nothing about developing melodies and harmonic progressions. Well, Mr. Rorem, here’s a composer for you: Hailing from Austin, Texas, Michael Vernusky is an artist with deep interests in both of the aforementioned aspects of his trade, as well as in a simultaneous exloration of classical orchestral means and up-to-date electronic technques. “Blood that sees the light” is the beginner’s guide compendium to his repertoire.

It is not hard to see why. While Michael has been around for quite some time, composing and scoring the music to films such as “Means and Meditations”, this is actually his first and only offical release. With contributions recorded as far back as 2002 and as recently as 2005, it also constitutes a sort of sampler with highlights from his steadily growing catalogue and offers a glimpse at a style between the chairs, marked by a string of fine nuances differentiating him from the fold: He loves to work with sound, but he is not so head-over-heels in love with it to prefer it above structure. As a guitarist, he enjoys the instrumental performance aspects of his works, but never allows them to be an end in themselves. He writes “serious”, daring and adventurous pieces, but isn’t afraid to occasionally dab his feet into catchy and accesible waters. And finally, he loves to work with intuitive mechanisms, but has a knack for using them as a counterpoint to dense, highly “composed” passages of harmonies scraping the border between the tonal and “atonal”. On the three tracks of “Blood...” he has recorded singlehandedly (or at least without any external assistance), this approach leads to intense, occasionaly disturbing soundscapes of flexible and changing moods, which never loose their organic surface despite the sometimes severe amount of processing involved in their creation. As he points out himself, though, collaborations have also been an important part of his art and it is quite possibly easier on “Blood that sees the light” to discern his own voice when it is juxtaposed with the input of others – the romantic flute figures of Karmen Suter or the luscious string arrangements on the grand finale “Drawn Inward”, for example. Even when he is not even physically present, such as on “Arc” for solo piano, Vernusky is never far away, first splitting the music up in short islands of interrupted themes, before jumping on the train of a hypnotic groove.

He is by no means afraid of “entertaining” his audience and the diverse nature of the material on the album marks him as a composer who wants to be heard by a public which isn’t exclusively made up of colleagues or professors. There is, however, something else going on here, which extends beyond these terms of limited value. Throughout this CD, I had the strong impression that Vernusky is using different instrumental settings to illuminate certain fundamental principles from various angles and with different means, as if he were trying to get across the same wordless message with each track (whatever it may be). It is this combination of inward coherence and outward versatility which makes him a recommendation to more than just Ned Rorem.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Michael Vernusky
Homepage: Quiet Design Records
Homepage: Quiet Design Records at MySpace

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