Estonian composer Helena Tulveâ€™s Sula (Thawing) looks about as unprepossessing as you could get -- a white cover with a barely visible off-white sketch of a frost formation, and the title and composerâ€™s name discreetly tucked into a corner. Once you (try to) open the CD, you quickly realize that wherever you are (unless you're at a large empty conference table, or in the middle of your living room floor) you're in the wrong place. After you find a vast open area and start to unfold, and keep unfolding the case's 18 panels, you end up with a spread not quite as big as a standard road map.
But donâ€™t get lulled into a complacent sense of accomplishment: your journey has just begun. The program notes (in three languages, in seven colors of ink, some on a white background, and some on black, some text right side up, some upside down) are arrayed across the panels in what's clearly a logical order, but it's an order that requires you to keep flipping the whole assemblage over repeatedly to follow the text sequentially. This is a procedure that can be executed with about as much grace and ease as turning over a groggy seagull -â€“ once you start lifting, all the folds start flapping and flailing and closing and opening â€“- and you start to panic Oh my God Iâ€™m going to destroy the case for this expensive imported CD thatâ€™s an artwork in itself -â€“ and you gingerly let go and it drifts down on its opposite side, requiring just a few pats and adjustments to make it flat and readable. Warning: Do not attempt to read the program notes while listening to the CD â€“- you'll be too busy to pay any attention to the music. Recommendation: Listen to the CD first, and after hearing Sula, Tulveâ€™s monumental depiction of the breaking up of a glacier, you'll be fully motivated to read everything about it that you can. After that, listen to the CD again.