From a Folio CB0039
From a Folio, a suite of six short pieces for cello and piano and one central piece for six cellos, a set of songs without words, was composed for new-music cellist Derek Stein, with whom Fink has been performing in various small groups during the past few years.
As the elegant, subtle music unfolds, radiating a deep, emotional sense of form, the listener is quickly drawn into a highly nuanced, lyrical sound world. Fink’s characteristically reductive but expressive style is evident throughout, as the set’s quiet intensity builds to a muted ecstasy and then returns to a somewhat serene state.
“[Fink’s music is] music that comes from the classical tradition, but that feels like it belongs somewhere other than the concert hall . . . texturally rich, meticulously crafted and delicately beautiful.” —Dusted magazine
Michael Jon Fink is a Los Angeles-based composer-performer whose usually quiet, lyrical music has been described by the Los Angeles Times as “lustrous,” “metaphysically tinged” and “unapologetically tranquil.” LA Weekly has written that his music is “of ethereal simplicity . . . he has shaped and refined his spare style greatly—it is distinctly his own.”
His instrumental and electronic music has been presented at the Green Umbrella Series of the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, New Music L.A., the Monday Evening Concerts, the SCREAM Festival, the Fringe Festival, New Music America, Festival Commune di Chiesa, the Martes Musicales, Podewil, the CalArts Contemporary Music Festival, and numerous other festivals throughout the United States and Europe.
He has written much chamber music, as well as concertos for soprano saxophone, bass clarinet, violin, and cello, including A Folio of Large and Small Worlds Ending, a chamber concerto composed for noted avant-garde cellist Frances Marie Uitti (who plays with two bows at the same time) and premiered at REDCAT in 2012, and incidental music for three plays by Wajdi Mouawad (Forêts, Seuls, and Temps) and the score for Tareq Daoud’s short dramatic film La salle des maîtres. Most recently he has focused on performing as an electric guitarist, particularly in semi-improvisational contexts with such performers as Brian Walsh, Derek Stein, Chas Smith, and Ulrich Krieger.
Fink’s music has been released on the Cold Blue, Centaur, CRI, Raptoria Caam, Bare Bones, Wiretapper, TrancePort, and Contagion record labels. Fink has taught at CalArts for more than 30 years. (His music appears on seven previous Cold Blue CDs.) (michaeljonfink.com)
“The composer…is confirmed as a master of sensitivity and good taste. In his personal interpretation of historical minimalism, there is a warmth, a presence and a deep involvement, which is extremely rare.”—Sands-Zine (Italy)
“Michael Jon Fink—operating within New Music but sidestepping much of its systematic, lab-dulled pretention.… There’s something of Gavin Bryars’ evanescent emotional skill to Fink’s music, something of the soft spatial blur of the Evanses (Bill and Gil)…what gets me every time is its sheer and honest beauty.”—Misfit City (UK)
Derek Stein is a young Los Angeles–based cellist who regularly tours the United States and overseas, performing with several of LA’s new-music groups, including the acclaimed wild Up (founded and led by Christopher Rountree), gnarwhallaby (with Brian Walsh, Matt Barbier, and Richard Valitutto), and Trio Terroir (with Mark Menzies and Dzovig Markarian, a group dedicated to music written after 1990). Stein, who holds an adjunct teaching position at CalArts, may be heard on a couple of recent releases from Populist Records.)
“A tantalizing slab of post-minimal, radical tonality enters our ears (or mine, anyway) today. Michael Jon Fink returns with a 18-minute EP of music for cello and piano, From a Folio. It is the opposite of formulaic. You can’t be sure where the music is going but you know it will linger there a little while, then move on. Seven very brief pieces form a kind of suite, each one exploring an overlapping set of patterns that go slowly and sensitively to some beautiful tonal realms, but not simplistically so. There are slow ostinatos, or melodic slowly quasi-arpeggiated phrases in the piano that evolve, cello suspensions and long tones, sometimes multiparts (overdubs) that create lovely chordal spellings and then move to others equally lovely but not following a road of cliché. There are slowly twisting melodies that see themselves mirrored in the dual instrumentation but never in the exact same musical image. Fink’s From a Folio gives us music of transparency, of slow shimmering sunsets, of repose, of deceptive simplicity that comes across initially as tranquil mood music but on repeated hearings has sophisticated grit and compositional substance. It is one of those Cold Blue albums that eventually haunts you, 18 minutes to contemplate the ‘being here’ of carefully unwinding pastoral magic. I have come to love this music for a number of reasons. There is a deliberateness along with an expressive depictiveness. Nothing is what it seems at first, and yet it does not change from listen to listen. You do. Thank you Derek Stein, cello, and Maestro Fink, piano, for these beautiful performances. And Maestro Fink for the considered musical vision. Very recommended.” —Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review
“A short CD, nineteen minutes, of pieces for piano, played by the composer himself, Michael Jon Fink, and Derek Stein on cello…. These seven pieces are quite short, as you can imagine, and they are all beautiful and elegant. Lots of space is suggested, and these pieces sound perhaps a bit like music for mourning? Maybe I am wrong and it’s these grey clouds that I can see from my window that literally cloud my judgement…. It’s modern classical, it’s a bit minimalist, it’s beautiful, it’s sad, yet it’s full of hope. It’s music like this the world needs, I’d say. But who’s listening?”—Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly (Netherlands)
“From Los Angeles-based Cold Blue Music comes a new CD by Michael Jon Fink titled From a Folio, featuring Derek Stein on cello and the composer at the piano. Michael Jon Fink has a distinguished 30-plus-year career as a composer…. [T]he long arc of his composing career has allowed [him] to refine his style of understated eloquence through simple musical materials, and From a Folio is a fine example of just how much this can achieve…. All but one of the tracks use the same combination of spare piano rhythms accompanied by the cello. The first track, Invocation, is typical—the piano provides a steady, purposeful line of single notes in a rising, repeating sequence. The cello follows the piano, but in an unexpected register—high but not shrill—and the cello ends each passage on a sustained tone that compliments the piano figure. This simple structure is unhurried and restful. Good control of intonation and pitch by Derek Stein is critical—the cello is almost never heard in its lower, warmer ranges…. Aftersong…has a sense of lonely isolation and is played with great feeling by Derek Stein, who also performs with Gnarwhallaby and wildUp, two Los Angeles groups known for a much more animated and energetic sound—this CD is evidence of a softer, more introspective side to his playing…. Exit, the last track, opens with a series of luminous piano notes that seem to hang suspended in the air. The cello shortly picks up the same notes, sustaining them while the piano replies in quiet counterpoint. The cello, again in a high register, repeats the opening theme as the piano adds a few short arpeggios. The solitary sound of the cello plays out as the track concludes. From a Folio is the perfect title for this CD. Each piece is one of a series of brilliant jewels as if cut from the same stone. From a Folio…is music that is simple, yet essential—an elegant vessel of deep expression.”—Paul Muller, Sequenza21 and New Classic LA
“An 18-minute suite of seven brief movements for cello and piano, excepting the central movement, Aftersong, for multiple cellos…. Fink provides several direct views onto an expansive yet unpopulated landscape…. It’s quite haunting if you choose to dwell here.” —Grant Chu Covell, La Folia
“Melancholy, slow, simple. Post-classical comes to mind, like Olafúr Arnalds stripped of his electronic shades, but let’s not forget that the Cold Blue crew were doing post-classical before the term post-classical was coined. And From a Folio is a work as typically Cold Blue as they come: misleadingly simple, and gorgeous like contemporary music has no business to be.”—François Couture, Monsieur Délire’s Listening Diary
“From a Folio… presents a suite of six exquisite miniatures for cello and piano…as well as an additional piece for six cellos. The opening Invocation sets the tone for the release with haunting melody lines voiced in unison by the duo, Fink’s evocative neo-classical music gracefully rising and falling and characterized by delicacy in its execution. Pensive and ethereal by comparison, Hieroglyph follows, after which Melos unfolds with a controlled lyricism that nevertheless packs a powerful emotional punch. Like all of the settings, Aftersong is brief yet still long enough for Stein’s multi-layered cellos to dramatically swell and leave a strong mark on the listener. There’s an emotional and expressive arc to the release that becomes discernible over the course of its seven pieces, with the music slowly building in intensity and then decompressing as it works through its closing pieces. As striking as Stein’s solo set-piece Aftersong is, it’s the piano-cello duets that satisfy the most on this elegant set.” —Textura
“Beautiful.”—Nova Express (France)
“The seven short cinematic pieces here together barely top the 18-minute mark but pack plenty of emotion and feelings of solitude and introspection…. The instrumentation employed on From a Folio is sparse but fits the scene perfectly, like a recipe for tranquility; Fink plays piano, and is accompanied by cellist Derek Stein, and with the exception of one piece with no piano where cellos are multi-tracked, the general approach is with piano leading in a slow and deliberative way, with a single cello augmenting the proceedings with additional coloration and melody, albeit dark and heavily shaded in introverted moods and mystery. All taken together, this is an exceptional collection of vignettes conveying a single serene experience.” — Peter Thelen, Exposé magazine
“It has been raining lightly all day here and the sky is grey. The music on this EP fits the mood perfectly: a bit dark, stark, moody, somewhat sad, graceful, rather soothing in its own way. There are a minimum of notes used, yet each one evokes a feeling or spirit. Elegant, somber, majestic at times. It sounds as if the cello is overdubbed at times with a few sympathetic layers. I love the way the starkness of the notes ring quietly in the silence and evoke so many feelings. Very dreamy.” —Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery Newsletter
“Derek Stein´s cello certainly seems to beseech ‘woe is me’ in the opening Invocation of From a Folio, Michael Jon Fink´s short but pregnant suite. Consisting of six pieces for piano and cello and one for six cellos, it is another of Cold Blue Music´s CD singles for brief, essential new listens. Though leading with such a lament, the rest of the folio unfolds like cozy but serious conversation between a couple, perhaps old, perhaps young, on a rainy afternoon. Each of the duo´s notes is spare but eloquently interplayed. Kitchen talk, no earth-shattering issues, no bottled up emotions uncorked or repressed secrets aired. Just the profundity of lives spent in equanimity, with a teapot and a lot of warmth in between.”—Stephen Fruitman, Avant Music News