Music of Nights Without Moon or Pearl presents three works by New York composer Michael Byron. The first two, the title piece and "Invisible 'Seeds' for James Tenney," were both written in 1998 for the same instrumentation (string quintet, two pianos, one synthesizer) and are related as each other's negative reflection. Recorded in 2000, they are performed by the CalArts New Century Players, conducted by David Rosenboom. Two principal elements constitute "Music of Nights Without Moon or Pearl": staccato playing from the strings and rolled piano chords acting like washes of sound. Synthesizer soundscapes add to the pianos' effect. The delicate, textural, and organized keyboard playing contrasts heavily with the seemingly random harsh string plucks. The piece begins with soundscapes and sparse staccato notes, then builds up to a climax where strings become more and more busy, adding the pianos along the way and finally reverting to its first state. On "Invisible 'Seeds' for James Tenney" the colors are inverted: the strings play arco throughout and the pianists drop bombshell-staccato chords. The first piece is softer, more textural, while the second is more troubled and has greater impact on the listener. "Entrances" completes the program. Recorded in 1982, this is an impressive piece for four pianos. All parts are performed by David Rosenboom. It starts as a disjointed contemporary piece -- nice, but still an exercise -- but builds up into rhapsodic frenzy, taking the listener into its maelstrom, putting a surprising exclamation point at the end of this album.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture