William Roper

Hippopatamus

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Composer William Roper said in an interview that "If you have to hang out with musicians, then low-end people are the ones. Low-end people play long, slow, low notes," a quote that reflects his background as a classical and jazz tuba player. Roper's preferences are evident in the long, weighty, mostly slow compositions recorded here. Roper's music in the classical realm also tends to be dark, and the majority of his works are concerned with death, either literal or metaphoric. Hippopotamus--Alice Inez, for tuba, percussion, speaker, viola, and clarinet, refers to an animal that's a good analog for the tuba -- low-slung, weighty, and generally slow (but with the ability to move with speed when required). The piece is also a memorial to his mother, because in both Egyptian and sub-Saharan mythologies the hippopotamus is related to motherhood. Etoiles--It's Time to Turn Out the Lights, Dear commemorates the end of a romantic relationship. Scored for muted tuba, percussion, and piano, it's an extended lament lasting almost 40 minutes. Both works have substance and gravity, and a Feldman-esque sparseness that focuses the listeners' attention on isolated musical events. Roper's writing is inventive and emotionally charged; even though things move slowly and there is little traditional development, the colors and gestures are so intriguing that there's no room for boredom to set in. Etoiles, the more austere and disciplined piece, is particularly riveting. Its surprisingly skittery ending is, according to the composer, an allusion to "rats in the attic." Roper and his small ensemble of instrumentalists play with absolutely focused conviction, maintaining a high level of tension even when the music is consistently low, slow, and quiet. The sound is clean and nicely ambient.

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