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CD Review

Paul Dresher

Cage Machine

  • Concerto for Violin and Electro-Acoustic Band (1996-97)
  • Elapsed Time (1998)
  • In the Nameless (2002)
  • Din of Iniquity (1994)
David Abel, Joel Davel, Paul Dresher, Julie Steinberg, Yuri Mershevsky
The Electro Acoustic Band
New Albion NA125 75 mins
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An American composer to be reckoned with and enjoyed. Paul Dresher is formidably equipped with basic compositional skills, but he is primarily an inventor of sounds who would appear, on this offering, to be at the forefront of electro-acoustic developments, with music which is continually novel; accessible but never too predictable.

This is a lovingly compiled selection of a decade's fertile musical thinking, interpreted by a team of fine, versatile musicians, and presented in demonstration quality recordings with informative notes. He starts with a fascination with sound, and incorporates instruments he has created himself in most of the works here.

But if you start with the violin/piano duo Elapsed Time you will find that he is able to develop deceptively simple ideas into substantial musical structures. His violinist David Abel and pianist Julie Steinberg establish their formidable credentials in this 21 mins work which elaborates the initial ideas into Variations followed by the spare 'yearning calm' of the almost static Almost before launching the 'long sprint' of Racer.

David Abel is soloist in the violin concerto with Dresher's electro-acoustic band. You may take my word for it that the sounds they conjure are remarkable, even if you thought you'd heard all that electronic stuff before, and the CD has some amazing new sounds produced from extraordinary instruments like the longest of all string instruments, Dresher's Quatrochord, played by Yuri Mershevsky and heard with the Marimba Lumina 'percussion controller'.

If I haven't enthused you enough yet, watch on screen an excellent KQED video of Dresher and his colleagues at work, with commentary by John Adams.

Copyright © 2005, Peter Grahame Woolf