As mountain winds
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Full disclosure, my days at Thornlea Secondary School half a century ago briefly overlapped with those of composer David Eagle and more recently I was the general manager of New Music Concerts when he was invited to curate a concert in 2013 and commissioned to compose one of the works on the next recording. As mountain winds (Centrediscs CMCCD 30722 centrediscs.ca) features four compositions spanning 2011-2019 for ensembles of varying sizes. All include live computer processing and diffusion of the sounds of acoustic instruments, and, in the case of Unremembered Tongues the work mentioned above, soprano soloist (Xin Wang in the original Toronto performance). This 2021 recording features the powerful voice of Robyn Driedger-Klassen with the Turning Point Ensemble under the direction of founder Owen Underhill. It is in this complex work that we are most aware of the computer’s presence as the soloist’s voice is replicated, distorted, layered and distributed throughout space via an eight-speaker sound system (effective even in this stereo mix). Eagle tells us the initial inspiration came from thinking about the “many forgotten and endangered languages that are disappearing in our relentlessly modernizing society and monoculture. Sonic evocation of these lost modes of expression is a main focus of the work.” The languages he draws on are Iwaidja and Kayardild from northern Australia, Latin, Blackfoot, Basque, Cree and Hawaiian. The resulting “Tower of Babel” is very effective indeed. This is followed by Altered States and, such is the density of the computer manipulations, it takes careful listening to discern that the only instruments involved are those of the traditional piano trio, although at times the textures thin out and the violin, cello and piano of the Land’s End Ensemble become more easily discernable. The title track, which opens the disc, is an interactive composition for octet and computer, again with surround-sound projection. Instrumental phrases are processed in Eagle’s signature style to create “fluctuating and volatile sonic textures through filtering, granulating, delays, and transposing and harmonizing with just and microtonal intonation.” A Kinect motion sensor tracks the composer/interpreter’s hand movements to expressively transform and extend the ensemble, here Aventa under Bill Linwood. The disc closes with the earliest work, Two Forms of Intuition, an orchestral work (with computer) taking its inspiration and title from Immanuel Kant’s proposition of the same name that says we always perceive the world as phenomena in time and space. Commissioned by the Windsor Symphony Orchestra and premiered in 2012, it was subsequently performed and later recorded for this CD by Turning Point Ensemble. They have certainly made it their own. Kudos to all involved in this excellent portrait of one of Canada’s most adventurous composers, one who has embraced technology and successfully and creatively integrated it into live instrumental performance.