02a Margaret Maria Bill GilliamUncountable Spheres
Margaret Maria; Bill Gilliam
Independent (marbyllia-bg.bandcamp.com/album/uncountable-spheres)

Goddess of Edges
Margaret Maria
Independent (margaretmariamusic.com)

New collaborators, cellist Margaret Maria and pianist Bill Gilliam have formed their duo Marbyllia and released the album Uncountable Spheres, a sonic free-exploration between friends. These two well-travelled artists have collided from different worlds: Gilliam, a London-born, multi-award-winning Toronto composer, pianist and poet, is well known for his prepared piano and sonically stretched compositions and collaborations. Cellist Margaret Maria, a U of T graduate who went on to study at the Curtis Institute of Music, is becoming known as an improvisor, composer and producer after shedding her previous life as a classical cellist with the Vancouver Symphony and the National Arts Centre Orchestras, though she has been improvising, teaching and collaborating for many years. Their new experimental piano and cello duo album is described as “a journey from our earth’s core gravitational forces and our troposphere where we live impacted by climate change, and further up into our distressed stratosphere.” The resulting landscape is often spacey, explosive, dark and stormy, but each track reaches through the different levels of the atmosphere and eventually breaches the surface. The two improvisors push the limits of each other: Gilliam’s extensive range of sounds from his piano and Maria’s extended cello technique and unusual sound makers. The track Stratosphere in Distress is a solid representation of this dynamic team.

Listen to 'Uncountable Spheres' Now in the Listening Room

02b Margaret MariaAs a double-release feature, Margaret Maria’s solo album Goddess of Edges is her 15th studio album and highlights her editing craft and production skills, as well as reminding us of her decades of experience as an orchestral cellist. Here Maria shows off her extensive cello chops, as well as her love of rich string compositions with layers of rhythm, harmony and texture. Each track is layer upon layer of cello of every range, resulting in a full symphony of sounds of every description; from the full and rich C-string to the highest false harmonics, powerfully rhythmic chords and squeals and screams. A solid, strong disc chock-full of exciting and layered works, the compositions are driving and emotional pieces; many could be contemporary dance soundtracks. With themes of death, angels and shame, this album is edgier and more expressive than her previous offerings. Driving fragility far away; this is an exposé of Maria’s conflicting representations of who we are on the inside while our exterior belies our vulnerability.

Listen to 'Goddess of Edges' Now in the Listening Room

If you missed the double-release featuring both performers at Annette Studios on December 2, you can find the recorded stream on YouTube. It’s well worth the visit, to hear of Margaret Maria’s compositional process, her release from classical orchestral playing and readings of inspirational poetry.

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