Lee and Eagle’s SECRET OF THE SEVEN STARS reviewed by Stanley Fefferman

Secret of the Seven Stars. Music of Hope Lee and David Eagle. Centrediscs, 2012.

Indispensible and illuminating liner notes remind us that this is “the third joint recording featuring the music of Hope Lee and David Eagle.” I had the pleasure of recommending their second project renew’d at ev’ry glance, Centrediscs, 2008 as a “carefully made and artfully assembled work that would reward repeated listening with pleasure and insight. Lee and Eagle are totally committed artists. I comment on three of their five new works to get across a flavour of this recording, and invite you to draw your own conclusions.

Waves and Points (2010) for accordion and computer by David Eagle.

To open the work, David Eagle offers free-bass accordion lines played by Stefan Hussong transformed by live processing into swirling sonics. This passage is a prelude to recognizable accordion chords, wind-like sighings and whistlings that work their way up to proto-melodic sequences suggesting a kind of abstract soundscape free of emotion or meaning. As the title suggests, we are surrounded by a flow of sonic waves and points, ghostly accordion sonorities and gestures transformed through live processing: waves swelling and diminishing, points appearing and disappearing; sounds granulized and otherwise textured; sounds reflective, speculative, exploratory, imaginative, playful in a serious way, avoiding cliches of melody and harmony. I imagine galactic music, what asteroids might be saying to each other in transiting measureless space. Whale music.Polyphonic chatter of alien radio networks. The spatial ambiance of this work, conceived for 42 loudspeakers, is adapted for 2 or more channel stereo mix.

Fluctuare (2009) for flute and computer by David Eagle. Soloist Robert Aitken.

Despite the extended techniques, it is hard to conceal the bird like affinities of flute and the inevitable, Debussyesque pastoral associations, which, by the way, are more pleasant to my ear than the whining of accordion. This work has strong polyphonic appeal, and is quite pretty despite atonal dissonance and fleshless electronics. Of interest are the volatile shifts in timbre, intensity, and breath; repetitive patterns of notes are comforting as Fluctuare warbles to a close. Robert Aitken’s transparent virtuosity serves the work well.

Secret of the Seven Stars (2011) for strings,accordion, percussion by Hope Lee. Performed by New Music Concerts Ensemble.

Ms. Lee notes that her composition (just under 20 minutes) is inspired by the Revelation to John and various Chinese artistic traditions. At the start we hear a clear triangle ringing. Pizzicato plucked and screaming swirling arco strings increase the tempo and density of the soundspace. Joseph Macerollo’s accordion chords punctuate it, Ryan Scott’s percussion burbles through it. Novel sonic shapes appear: curved lines, jerky lines, muddles, and wide swaths of sound that devolve downwards skirting the zone of melody. These musical shapes are the syntax of a cultural narrative. There is also a perceptible structure to this spacey composition—its squeaks, percussive clicks, rush of strings, explosions of bells, fade into silence and arise again in a succession of modules until Ms. Lee has completed her representation of the human tensions that join heaven and earth in our present cycle of time.


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