Separation Songs   CB0055

The music

Separation Songs (2013/2018)—a transcendent, slowly-evolving set of 54 variations on four-voice hymn tunes——juxtaposes and weaves together an array of tunes from William Billings’s New England Psalm Singer (1770), gradually altering them as the piece unfolds. Although its architectural surface remains fairly consistent throughout, the 70-minuter work for two string quartets is at any given moment alluring and eloquent in its simplicity and beauty. The composer writes, “Throughout the piece, hymn tunes appear and reappear in ever-expanding loops of music. . . . Each time they return, the tunes filter through a ‘separation process,’ whereby selected notes migrate from one quartet to the other . . . generating new rhythms and harmonies.” On this recording, L.A.’s acclaimed Eclipse Quartet accompanies and interacts with itself—playing both quartet parts via overdubbing.

“Ever wonder what two centuries colliding sounds like? Listen to Separation Songs.” (Robert Carl)

The composer

Matt Sargent is a composer, guitarist, music technologist, and audio engineer based in upstate New York. His generally pensive and serene music is often based on natural resonances and repeating structures and frequently involves the sonic features of specific spaces, which has led him to create work in many unique locations, such as the grain elevators of Buffalo’s Silo City and Death Valley’s Rhyolite ghost town. His music has been heard in concerts and installations at the Reykjavik Art Museum, Constellation (Chicago), The Wulf (Los Angeles), the Darmstadt Ferienkurse für Neue Musik, the New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival, the Chesapeake Orchestra’s River Concert Series (DC), the Museum of Contemporary Art (Cleveland), the SEM Ensemble’s Emerging Composers series, and elsewhere. He is a visiting assistant professor of electronic music and sound at Bard College. His album Ghost Music, a work for solo percussionist, was released on the Weightier Recordings label in 2018, his Tide (for ten basses)was released on the Marginal Frequency label in 2019. (

Sargent’s music has been described by critics as “a powerfully organic experience” (Sequenza21) that is “so simple, so natural, and yet sets up a complex set of interactions” (SoundExpanse) as it “uses bare resources to establish a bounded and essential space” (The Wire).

The performers

The eminent Eclipse Quartet is a Los Angeles–based ensemble dedicated to performing contemporary music. It has toured throughout the U.S. and Europe, and its repertoire spans extends from works by John Cage and Morton Subotnick to collaborations with the singers Beck and Caetano Veloso and includes works music by Roger Reynolds, Roscoe Mitchell, Julia Wolfe, Peter Garland, Ben Johnston, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Annie Gosfield, John Zorn, Fred Frith, Philip Glass, Lois V. Vierk, John Adams, John Luther Adams, Jim Fox, and many others. The group has recorded music by Morton Feldman, Frederick Rzewski, James Tenney, Ben Johnston, and Zeena Parkins for the Tzadik, New World, Microfest, and Bridge labels. (Eclipse’s members—Sarah Thornblade and Sara Parkins, violins; Alma Lisa Fernandez, viola; Maggie Parkins, cello—are also active studio musicians.) “The Eclipse [Quartet] is LA’s answer to 20th-century and present-day music.” (HuffPost)


“I think this is a beautiful piece of music and I am not sure why. I like the slowness of the development, the melodic touch and the general minimalism. If anything, I am reminded of the work of Gavin Bryars, his Obscure Records…. Forty years ago, Brian Eno could have picked this record as well for inclusion on the great Obscure Records series. A long and excellent piece of music that brought some much needed calm to my place.” —Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly