Stephen Dickman

Composer(s): Stephen Dickman
Album Title: Who Says Words 
Cat. No.: 80573
Genre: Classical
Description: Who Says Words

Thomas Buckner, baritone; Elizabeth Farnum, soprano; Joseph Kubera, piano; Gregor Kitzis, violin; Michael Finckel, cello

The ecstatic music of Stephen Dickman (b. 1943) is based on his own musical scales, a fusion of  minimalist aesthetic with Eastern influences. After studying with Jacob Druckman, Arthur Berger and Harold Shapero, Dickman subsequently went on to study sarangi with Pandit Ram Narayan in Bombay. His study of Indian music had a liberating and profound effect on his style. The sonic universe that defines his work is notable for its spareness and simplicity of means. As most of the pieces on this disc illustrate, he typically builds a composition out of a voice in dialogue with a single instrument. Using a scale that is often unique to a particular piece, the voice and instrument repeat a limited number of motifs to weave a hypnotic spell over the listener. The longest piece on this disc, The Music of Eric Zann (based on a story by H. P. Lovecraft), is, in fact, an unaccompanied solo for baritone, built out of two scales.

Words are central to Dickman’s music; four of the disc’s five works are based on texts drawn from a wide variety of beliefs and cultures. These texts evoke modes of spiritual experience—the Hasidism of Rabbi Nathan’s Prayer, the Sufism of the Rumi texts of Who Says Words and Four for Tom, the Buddhism of the Tibetan saint, Milarepa, in the final of the Four for Tom songs, and the otherworldliness suggested by the Gothic tradition in The Music of Eric Zann—which, enhanced by the music, seek to transport the listener to a higher realm. The sole purely instrumental work, Indian Wells, for solo piano, is imbued with the quiet joyfulness that is an integral part of Dickman’s musical ethos. 
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