This CD contains five beautifully articulated and original tone poems for various chamber music ensembles. "Onyx" (1991) evokes sound impressions of the "ribbons of color" seen in agates found on shorelines -- for example, harsh sparkles from breathy flute attacks, a steady twirling and sliding of string harmonics, as well as a brief passage of Wagnerian harmonies, suggest the constant shifting of prismatic colors. The beautifully mysterious "Song in High Grasses" (1986) for voice, flute, cello, and piano was composed around a "yodel-like call" which singer Charlotte Regni (for whom the piece was written) learned as a child living in Zaire, Africa. "This piece is a sonic visualization of an imaginary outdoor space with tall grasses, large plants, warm winds and somnulant insects, birds and beasts" (Hovda). The title of "Snapdragon" (1993) for wind ensemble refers to the flower and also to the English children's game in which raisins are snatched from burning flames. The music moves among a highly contrasting polarity: from gentle trills, melodic gestures and sustains to the other extreme of strongly attacked, nervous sounds. The dance music "Leaning into and Away" (1994) for strings, winds, percussion, and piano begins, like several of the other compositions, with a gentle fluttering and underlying nervous energy, which unfolds with a focus on "the energy shapes of running on the ground, leaping into space...and the energy flow involved in any physical moves from balance to suspension." A very moving contrast to the nervous energy is a gentle, ethereal sustained bridge for strings and winds that suggests a suspended pre-Classical formality. The very original "Ariadne Music" (1984) for two strings, two winds, piano, and percussion depicts the gradual unwinding of the ball of thread given by Ariadne to Theseus so that he could escape the labyrinth and death from the Minotaur. The onset of the music is built from gentle flutters of string harmonics, icy harmonics from the piano strings, low rumbling clusters, quarter-tone slides about unison tones; all these gradually build into an overwhelming sonic wave that crests into steady rhythmic beats, like an excited heartbeat, for the whole ensemble. This emphatic repetition is then subtly shifted back into the unwinding figures that occur at the beginning of the piece.
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AllMusic Review by "Blue" Gene Tyranny