Gil Rose / Boston Modern Orchestra Project

Matthew Rosenblum: Möbius Loop

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The earlier works of Pittsburgh-based composer Mathew Rosenblum featured a microtonal scale of his own development, with 21 (or 19) pitches to the octave. The works on this release (written between 2000 and 2012) still make use of microtones. To that feature, however, Rosenblum has added a careening mix of other influences, including jazz, rock, abstract contrapuntal forms, Latin music Rosenblum encountered as a high school student in New York City, and more. It sounds like an example of annoying postmodern pastiche, but what holds it together is that there's a consistent structural principle as all the different sounds go by. That principle is tonality, and annotator Andrew Druckenbrod likens Rosenblum's use of it to Berg's in his Violin Concerto: the tonality is "built into" the music's basic technical device (twelve-tone organization in Berg's case, the microtonal scale in Rosenblum's). Another way to look at it would be that the microtones deepen the harmonic shading as a work proceeds here, and the music is actually highly listenable despite its hodgepodge of sources. Check out the first track, Sharpshooter, to get a taste of the ideas that are applied in the longer compositions: it features a simple motor rhythm over which a 19-tone scale is manipulated so as to reveal new harmonic colors as the work proceeds. The new colors are accented by a variety of unexpected instrumental sonorities and attacks. In the title work, Möbius Loop, it is hard to hear a Möbius loop or anything but a conventional ABA structure with some inversions and variations. The Double Concerto for baritone, marimba, and orchestra has a palindromic shape that's effectively grafted onto jazz moves that seem closely allied to Rosenblum's language; it's a hugely enjoyable work that despite its abstract structure seems to bring something new at every turn. The Boston Modern Orchestra Project has something here that will hold appeal beyond the usual circles of contemporary ensemble music.

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