This is an arresting CD which compels listening. Gordon McPherson (b.1965) teaches composition in Scotland and judging from his notes for this CD his students must enjoy lively intellectual stimulation. He takes cues for composing from ordinary life; Detours is about memories and reflections about cars and accidents; the memory crash alluded to was a computer blow-up; he seems also to have rather a lot of 'split ups' which find their way into his music.
Maps and Diagrams of our Pain (1990) is a long and dense 25 minute duo for piano and violin (Richard Casey & David Routledge), inspired by fascination with psychiatry and exploration of obsessive-compulsion disorder. The CD ends with Born of Funk and The Fear of Failing, a thoroughly engrossing guitar concerto (soloist Allan Neave) which, he avers, is not a guitar concerto because it is impossible to write one; I found it one of the most successful of contemporary guitar concertos I know.
Idiosyncratic though the composer's notes read, the music itself is mostly direct and accessible. Detours begins disconcertingly (to me) blandly, but this is deceptive and we soon enter complexities which bring to mind Ives, whom I guess is to McPherson's taste. He draws on genres outside the classical canon, and some of the references no doubt passed me by.
Psappha is a crack ensemble which plays an important part in UK's northern musical lifeand the whole thing was recorded - quite astonishingly - in one day in April 2001 in the excellent hall of Manchester's Royal Northern College of Music.
Excellent production and the booklet helpfully lists who plays in what pieces. Strongly recommended for its originality and vitality.
Copyright © 2004, Peter Grahame Woolf