Keith Humble, piano; Laura Martin, violin; University of Illinois Contemporary Chamber Players; Cleveland Chamber Symphony; tape (Pacific Sirens); Edwin London, conductor
"Music is about something. It is always about human experience, human emotion when you get to the essentials."
"If you get right down to the bottom of what composers do, I think that what composers do now and have always done is to compose their environment in some sense. So I get a special little lift about working with environmental sounds." －Robert Erickson
Robert Erickson (1917-1997) is one of the more unjustly neglected American composers of the latter half of the twentieth century. He was also a revered teacher and author of two important books on music. Early in his career, under the guidance of his teacher Ernst Krenek, he flirted with then abandoned atonality. After relocating to California in 1956, he developed the characteristics for which his work became most recognized: a heightened interest in the atmosphere of a piece, an obsession with timbre, ways of varying the sound of a work with experiments in new technique, and explorations into the new worlds uncovered through the invention of tape recording.
The four works in this collection range in date of birth from the 1963 Piano Concerto, when Erickson was a potent force in the musical affairs of the San Francisco Bay Area, to the 1977 Garden nourished by the creative atmosphere at UC-San Diego that he had worked hard to create.
At the far end (Piano Concerto,) there are the exuberant challenges flung forth to the solo pianist and the seven participating instrumentalists, the interplay between the written-down notes and the improv, the encouragement offered to all eight performers to go as far as they can and then keep on going.
At the near end (Garden) there is the elegant, quiet, reflective joy, the infinitely sweet solo melody that seems to sing of gardens spread over the California hillsides and over the hillsides of, perhaps, some distant and exotic land as well.
In between there are the revelings in the pure magic of sound: the siren beckonings of Pacific waves (Pacific Sirens), the robust play of colors around a gathering of wind players in some onshore safe haven (White Lady).