Dominant Curve

Brooklyn Rider

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Dominant Curve Review

by James Manheim

Despite the hip name and the intricate, rather Yellow Submarine-like design, this release by the string quartet Brooklyn Rider is less closely tied to popular traditions than any number of other releases by the many contemporary groups that have followed the model of the Kronos Quartet. The influences here come instead from musical traditions around the world. Several of the works are connected with the centerpiece, Claude Debussy's String Quartet in G minor, Op. 10; the opening Achille's Heel refers to Debussy's middle name, while Uzbek composer Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky's … al niente quotes the quartet itself, which in turn shows numerous effects of Debussy's encounter with the music of Java and Bali. John Cage's In a Landscape, composed in 1948 and altogether one of his less radical pieces, is oriented toward Asian traditions more generally, and an added electronic track by Justin Messina brings another cyclical dimension to a program with a lot of them. Shakuhachi player Kojiro Umezaki's (Cycles) what falls must rise neatly incorporates traditional Japanese melody into the wider concept. Best of all, Brooklyn Rider's performance of the Debussy itself achieves the goal of defamiliarizing the work, without which the entire project would founder. They deliver a brisk, punchy reading that sets up the music's rhythmic experiments in an unusual way. All the music is more or less tonal, and each work treats the instruments of the string quartet in a different way without fundamentally departing from the conventions of the ensemble. Rather puzzling notes are in English only.

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