Either/Or: Russell Greenberg, percussion; David Shively, cimbalom; Dan Lippel, acoustic guitar; Taka Kigawa, piano; Jennifer Choi, violin; John Popham, cello
Keeril Makan (b 1972) composed his longest instrumental work to date, Letting Time Circle Through Us (2013), on commission for the New York City-based ensemble Either/Or, with whose musicians Makan has worked intimately over the course of many years and on several projects. The larger trajectory of Makan's musical explorations has not been a linear one, so this close collaboration was invaluable in arriving at the final recorded realization of the project.
A near-constant in Makan's work is his use of the power of expectation and disruption via the establishment, continuation, variation, and interruption of musical cycles, whatever their content. Repetition and recurrence, periodicity－whether of rhythm or of complete musical fragments－change things, are capable of completely upending the listener's expectation of the syntax and flow of an idea, and thus of its expressive significance within a piece. Related to this are parallels between musical periodicity and the cycles we experience in life－sunrise/sunset, the phases of the moon, the seasons, and other, including perhaps more personal patterns－that are reflected explicitly in Indian and Indonesian musical traditions.
These patterns or recurrence are acknowledged, at least obliquely, in Letting Time Circle Through Us, Makan's most direct and extended engagement with cyclic structures and periodicity. To quote his brief description of the piece, "The friction between two contrasting types of music creates the emotional journey of Letting Time Circle Through Us. From the foundation of a single note, stable music emerges that repeats throughout the piece. Between these repetitions, singular, novel musical events occur which contrast with the initial stability. Over time, these singular events darken, while the repetitions of the opening music strain to move past the stressful interruptions. Eventually the desire for a return to stability merges with the reality of continual change, and the tension of the piece dissipates."
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"Makan has the gift of a very special sonic taste that’s fresh and often beautiful." —Fanfare