Octet Ensemble

William Susman: Scatter My Ashes

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Those curious as to the next developments in the sphere increasingly unsatisfactorily termed minimalism might try out the music of American composer William Susman, who has been active since the early 1980s. The four works heard here were, with one exception, composed between 2009 and 2011, may be taken as state-of-the-art examples of this style world. Susman favors angular, repetitive rhythmic units and generally consonant tonality. His music might at times be taken for that of John Adams or of Michael Daugherty, but it is not derivative of either of those examples. Susman does not simply refer to popular styles but incorporates a layer of them, principally jazz and Afro-Latin percussion, as a structural element. Even more appealing, here he finds ways of slicing up his concert-music models, and for that matter his popular ones, into compact units: two sets of songs, an instrumental three-movement octet, and a satisfying little piano concerto comprising six distinctive, abstract movements that could be presented by any organization with modest resources. The songs feature accessible texts from the composer's sister, Sue Susman; one of them seems to refer to the Lovin' Spoonful's Summer in the City. The opening chamber piece, Camille, is entrancing, seemingly simple but not exactly resembling any readily recalled model. The album was produced by the composer and recorded at a studio in New York; it is sonically well ahead of comparable releases.

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