New Zealand-born American composer Annea Lockwood belongs to the venerable tradition of American experimentalists that includes Henry Cowell, Harry Partch, John Cage, and Pauline Oliveros. This CD includes two of her works from the 1990s, a reissue of a 1992 recording of Thousand Year Dreaming, and the first release of Floating World. The first piece, conceived specifically for the musicians who perform it here, was inspired by the Paleolithic cave paintings of Lascaux. Using a combination of folk and orchestral instruments, including four didgeridoos, conch shells, rattles, frame drums, oboe, English horn, clarinet, contrabass clarinet, and trombone. Not surprisingly, Lockwood does not deploy her unconventional forces in a conventional manner. She writes that she conceives of an individual tone "not as steady state, nor as simply a bead on a chain of melody, but as a mobile, inflected event with its own life and impact," and her philosophy is audible in her music, in which the integrity of the individual sounds is respected and combined with the most careful attention to their relationships. Thousand Year Dreaming is primarily atmospheric, an organically developed evocation of the passing of time, conveyed through the evolution of colorful timbral combinations. It's a hugely effective tone poem in which the primal sounds of the folk instruments and the unconventional use of the orchestral instruments create a sense of the mystery of the distant past.
Floating World is a tape piece, a sound collage that Lockwood assembled and edited (without processing), using an assortment of sound samples sent to her by other composers. Even though natural sounds -- water flowing, crickets, cattle -- predominate, ambient sounds of contemporary culture -- traffic, church bells, ships' horns -- place the piece very specifically in the modern world. The resulting three-movement soundscape is aurally attractive, but lacks the rigorous focus that makes Thousand Year Dreaming so striking. Lockwood's creative extension of the experimentalist tradition should make her work appealing to listeners with ears open to the unexpected and often deeply expressive juxtapositions of mundane and exotic sounds.