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The Fibonacci Sequence: "John McCabe - Chamber Works"

img  Tobias

Again and again, a sizeable group within the community of contemporary composers has called for the opening of their art to wider audiences and the rules of the open market. Not John McCabe: “I’ve found myself using a wider range of sounds than before”, he writes in the informative liner notes to this recording, “but emphatically, not going back to a simpler style just for the sake of doing so. The present fashion for making everything simple, ‘user-friendly’, is anathema to me.” Which comes quite a bit as a surprise after having listened to this collection of his chamber works. Does McCabe not realize how direct the impact of his music is?

He should be able to tell from personal experience, as he has always liked to participate in the performing of his own pieces and thanks to the fact that most of his work has been commissioned and actually played, he will have been able to witness the immediate reaction of the public. And with the candid melodic fludity, harmonic inventiveness, the focussing of the material in a burning hot lense of short motives and the outspoken rhythmic allure of his themes, what else can one expect from the latter but deep appreciation? In any case, all of the above implies that in his case, truly, music works as a universal language which can be understood by "experts" and "laymen", at least within the confinements of Western composition. Even though it goes by unmentioned, there is a great affinity with modern Jazz, both in the way he plays with tonal tissues and uses chords to create ambiances, as well as in his fascination for the night and the big city, their relationship and various metaphoric allusions. Sometimes, this is openly apparent, as with “Musica Notturna”, which moves from and to a solitary moment of emptiness via jagged violin-piano fireworks and moonlit flageolets. But all of the other pieces are equally characterised by the same melange of yearning and demanding and images of watching dark streets from behind secretly drawn curtains. So, if McCabe really considers his music to defy the usual standards of user-friendliness, then he must understand something different by that. For one, even the longer compositions which are devided into different movements are almost exclusively to be played as one continuous entity, asking longer stretches of concentration from the listener. And then, of course, the association with popular forms is merely a non-intentional byproduct, like the fine leather cover to a deep Philosophic treatise. McCabe is not after grooves or feel-good tunes, maybe he isn’t even after “moods”. Rather, different aspects of his motives and trying on everchanging compositional challenges are his catalysts. It is by no means a coincidence that not two of these pieces have the same form.

If there is something missing from this otherwhise insightfully presented CD at all, it would be a few words by the performers: After all, in the hands of the fibonacci sequence, these tracks keep their bipolar nature and their discomforting preoccupation with the moments of the day when all shapes blur, the body withdraws into itself and emotions flare. On the other hand, their entirely dedicated interpretation leaves no open questions whatsoever. Against all intentions, this is a recording which could appeal to wider audiences and the rules of the open market.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: John McCabe
Homepage: The Fibonacci Sequence
Homepage: Dutton Laboratories Records


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