The Society for Composers, Inc., celebrates the 25-year anniversary of its compilation album series through the release of Mosaic, a CD compilation on the Navona Records label that serves both as a cross-section of the various composers who are members of this organization and a reflection of what the society believes is its brightest and best. This series began in the age of vinyl under the society's original moniker as the American Society of Academic Composers, Inc -- later changed to better reflect the broader membership that the organization attracted -- and all 20 of the society's initial releases have been digitized. While Capstone Records has generally served as the house organ through which the series has made itself available in the digital age, in 2009 Capstone became part of the Parma Records family, and Parma has elected to issue this particularly special volume on its main label, Navona Records.
It's not a contest, but the best piece on the disc appears to be Undertow, a duet for violin and piano by Margaret Fairlie-Kennedy. Fairlie-Kennedy has a long career as a composer and apparently began utilizing serialism early but ran into a wall with it and spent some two decades in silence. When she resumed, it was with a looser application of her technique; this piece is still technically very solid, yet it is a dazzling, complex work that moves in a single-minded direction and has a definitive impact. Not far behind in terms of quality is Sally Reid's saxophone quartet Fiuggi Fanfare that is 3 minutes and 14 seconds of pure joy, and this has already been recognized at the Fifth Annual International Festival of Women Composers held by the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where the piece won first prize. At the other extreme is Cypriot composer Tasos Stylianou's Aneresis, an agonized three-movement duet for flute and violin that wears out its welcome quickly. By comparison, Stephen Yip's Gorintou-Five Rings Pagoda seems to achieve the sense of tension that Stylianou attempts to evoke, but in a far more colorful and varied manner and this bodes well for the promise of this youthful composer. In collections like these, one cannot be expected to like everything on the disc, as the variety of pieces offered is far too different; one looks to collections like these in order to find gems to follow further, and indeed, among the old American Society of Academic Composers, Inc., LPs one may find the name of Joan Tower, not a familiar one in the 1970s when album was issued but certainly a name to be reckoned with decades hence.
The disc contains enhanced media on its 10th track, but this is a little disappointing; it includes a letter from the president of the Society for Composers, Inc., which is the only document among several offered that move past one mouse click. Individual details about the composers and works included are lacking, and an entry marked "scores" in some instances only displays the title page of a score and no music. While Mosaic is not a perfect compilation, it has its moments and Navona succeeded in raising this type of new music compilation to a higher level of project than is the long-established norm.