Hexnut / New Music Raleigh / Karen Galvin / Donna Shin

D.J. Sparr: 21207

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The title of this release of music by American composer D.J. Sparr is needlessly off-putting, but the music is accessible and enjoyable. Sparr's music has been called pop-Romantic, and the composer's own electric guitar certainly injects an element from the pop world, but it's a good deal more rigorous than such a description might suggest. The pieces here contain several basic modes that may alternate or interpenetrate: a light, percussion- and rhythm-oriented texture that draws only minimally if at all on jazz; a near stasis resembling minimalism in two cases marked "Calm"; and a dense semi-polyphony drawn from and labeled as the medieval interlocking technique of hocket. Any of these may be inflected in a rock direction by the electric guitar. They also seem susceptible to the introduction of popular electronics, but this occurs only in the Fantasia for flute and electronics: Sugarhouse (track 4) and to an extent in Sound Harmonies with Air (track 3). North Carolina's New Music Raleigh, the Netherlands' Hexnut Ensemble, and a variety of individual soloists play cleanly, but are all pretty much subsumed in Sparr's music, which seems evanescent, but actually has a good deal of personality. Strongly recommended for those interested in new experiments with music that incorporates popular elements, but is not "crossover."

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