Earthshine is the second disc highlighting the work of New York-based composer Beata Moon. It covers a wide range of territory, containing two string quartets, a wind quintet, two piano solos played by Moon, solos for alto saxophone and marimba, a duet for electric guitar and piano, and four song settings. Despite the generosity of the program, Earthshine does not give one an impression of eclecticism so much as cohesion; Moon is the common element here, and her generally gentle but in its own way uncompromising music provides its own sense of "glue" among the various pieces here, all but two written between 2000 and 2004.
Moon is an excellent pianist, and her Nursery (1996) is the simplest and most direct of the pieces here -- it goes straight to the heart, and at just two minutes, almost too short. However, Moon does not want to carry any piece beyond its natural boundaries, and she has an uncanny knack for knowing when the end is near; all of the pieces seem to enjoy an unforced, essential sense of release. The range of ideas she undertakes is impressive, from the electric guitar solo Vignettes (2003-2004) with its employment of heavy metal-styled licks and echoes of Pat Metheny to Songs for My Parents (1996) -- elegant, straightforward settings of Biblical passages -- to her String Quartet: Homage to Béla (2000), which occasionally evokes the spectre of Bartók, but never imitates him. There are so many highlights on Earthshine that it would be folly to enumerate them all.
Beata Moon is not struggling with the tortured legacy of the twentieth century; she has taken from it what it has to offer her, and has moved on. That is what good twenty-first century music should be about; taking in as many of the tools one needs to serve the needs of personal expression and then putting them to good use. That Moon's music is challenging to musicians, skillfully conceived, and highly satisfying to listen to should be allowed to speak for itself; certainly Earthshine is a strong sampler of her gifts, and if one is interested in high quality new music, it should well reward any effort made to obtain it.