|Airi Yoshioka, violin;
Sue Heineman, bassoon; Lee Hinkle, percussion; José “Zeca” Lacerda, percussion; Maria Lambros, viola; John Novacek, piano
Stuart Saunders Smith (b. 1948) describes himself as "a confessional composer who focuses on revealing in his music the most personal aspects of his life, in the belief that the revelations of the particular speak to the universal." These six works feature the violin, unaccompanied and in a chamber context, and span four decades of compositional activity.
Minor (2001) and Hearts (2004) - the unaccompanied violin works on this album - offer a Janus-faced comparison of two interrogatory paths. Minor is unifocal, a soliloquy that delves into and elaborates upon a singularity. Hearts, on the other hand, is a series of miniatures that articulates a complex idea by moving from perspective to perspective, like a photographer trying to capture a sculpture by taking pictures of it from many angles. Both works, though, evince the characteristics of Smith's compositional language: free atonality, occasional nods toward the extended triadic harmonies of avant-garde jazz, the intuitive use of pitch cells, and registral displacements that create implied counterpoint and compound melodies within single lines.
The four chamber works on this album - Three for Two (1972), A Gift for Bessie (1971), A River Rose (2005), I've Been Here Before (2008) - rely to varying degrees on elements of what Smith calls "music of coexistence" - music where each performer's material is set, but its deployment in time in relation to other performers is not fixed. (Smith has sometimes referred to this practice as writing parts without a score.) The scores for these works do not appear to be especially complex - they look similar to his conventional solo and chamber scores - but by adjusting the synchronic relationships of the performers, Smith creates sounding objects that are breathing, vivid, and complex beyond the confines of intellectualism.