Listening to multi-talented Hong Kong- born British-Canadian Phoebe Tsang’s Button Music one experiences her wide-ranging, idiosyncratic, poetic and musical gifts.
Two multi-movement works are featured. Unbutton is a six-part journey into the challenge of losing a button. Love the attention-grabbing No.1, opening with staccato echoing repeated notes on violin and a vocal on the word “button”, just like the popping sound of losing a coat button. Touches of Romantic-style sad tonalities surface in No.2. A nod to folk music in No.3 with a party mood jig-quality violin part until the abrupt vocal/violin stop. No.4 presents Tsang at her very best as atonal violin lines coupled with emotive held-note vocalizations create a unique personal sound. Use of the familiar song lyric line “Button up Your Overcoat” in No. 5 creates a toe-tapping musical theatre song quality complete with extended violin solo with numerous effects. No.6 is performed with perfect phrasing, tonal quality, sad mood and a building musical tension.
The theatrical three-movement Cards from the Tarot de Marseille features a tight ensemble feel created by one performer in King of Cups. Creepy spoken words supported by a high-pitched violin sets the spooky mood of The Hermit. Tsang shows off her violin virtuosity in Le Pape with fast lines and a repeated note marching effect.
In the final track, Tsang says “Music is Power”, perfectly describing Tsang the artist. Powerful!