Brian Current: “This Isn’t Silence”: a CD review by Stanley Fefferman

November 4, 2008

Brian Current’s music is beautiful and interesting. The beauty part is the sound forms that are immediately recognizable as pleasing. You listen and you relax into a state of pleasure. His passages seem, in the words of Keats, “almost a recollection,” as if you were already familiar with them. But you are not. That’s the interesting part.

Current’s music has the quality of good improvised jazz, an ongoing sense of variety in the presentation of the familiar: novel timbres, orchestration, and above all, novel tempos—the ‘slanted time’ that has been his signature.

Interesting is synonymous with exciting. Current’s music is a fine blend of intensities rising from the naturally pleasing, like birdsong, bells, whistles and waves, to stronger sonorities that vibrate the nerves towards a zone of protest, like jalapeno does. The title piece goes furthest in that direction.

“For the Time Being” performed by the CBC Symphony under Bramwell Tovey is just gorgeous. “Concertino for Flutes and String Orchestra” features virtuoso Robert Aitken.” Current’s work is becoming widely appreciated for the experiments with irregular waves of accelerating and slowing tempos he calls ‘slanted time’. “Concertino”, an attractive and theatrical piece, as I recall from it’s premier, situates the three flautists at the back of the room. The music, made up of two-note units that pass back and forth between flutes and strings played arco and pizzicato, is sometimes arranged in call and response pattern. The solo work seems fiendishly difficult, but Aitken makes it look easy, and the piece as a whole has a delightful feeling, free of any harshness. Composer Evan Ware eloquently notes how the “…tangible, diaphanous…music flows in and out of time, sweetened by honeyed anachronisms.”

“Kazabauza”, premiered in Toronto by Alex Pauk’s Esprit Orchestra, and an earlier signature composition “Symphonies in Slanted Time”, also recorded here with Esprit Orchestra, have a kind of built-in fading wave structure that modulates between the beautiful and the interesting. “Kazabazua” is exciting music, finely grained, dense stretches of sound released by huge percussive shocks into a poignant quiescence. In his commentary, Mr. Current speaks of experimenting with “ constantly accelerating tempos…as if written for a metronome that only gets faster. The piece phases through cycles of momentum to renewal.

Highly recommended listening.
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