Splectra   CB0056

The music

Splectra (2014) is an elegant, fetching, virtuosic harp solo embellished with subtle digital processing. Each of the work’s two movements/parts (one echoing the other in structure) gradually expands a simple rising motive, becoming harmonically richer by adding pitches related to its opening note’s (low C) harmonic series. The composer writes, “Digital processing of the acoustic tones emphasizes the harp’s upper frequencies, presenting a timbral analogue to the piece’s harmonic structure.” It is performed by Grammy-winning harpist Alison Bjorkedal, with digital processing that captures and sustains certain overtones via a Max software patch designed and realized by Robert Carl and Matt Sargent.

This release is part of Cold Blue Music’s series of CD singles (begun in the early 1980s with a series of vinyl EPs)—one-course musical meals that are fully satisfying by themselves. The press has taken note of this series: “Cold Blue Music’s singles [are] a medium that the label does better than everyone else. . . . The idea is to offer a single work and to let it stand on its own, rather than making it share space with other music, and perhaps diminishing its impact on the listener. Less is more, Cold Blue Music seems to say. . . . It’s nice to know that not everything needs to be stretched or padded, and that a 20-minute work can be sufficient unto itself.” (Fanfare magazine) “Cold Blue . . . not only puts out albums with a unified profile but also makes use of the much-neglected, much-needed CD single format.” (Los Angeles Times) “Cold Blue’s series of CD singles is an extremely welcome and refreshingly daring experiment . . . and for this they deserve a great deal of credit.” (Sequenza21) “One of the most exciting innovations in the recording and marketing of modern composition . . . [is] Cold Blue Music’s series of ‘singles’—a new, minimalist or post-minimalist work . . . premiered on its own disc in the label’s usual beautiful packaging.” (Igloo Magazine)

The composer

Robert Carl is a prolific composer, a performer, and an author of books and articles on new music. His eclectic, often serene compositions—rooted in the spirit of transcendentalism and experiment—usually explore a harmonic language based in the overtone series. They have been performed around the world and recorded by various labels, including New World, Koch International, Innova, Opus One, and Lotus. Carl has received awards and fellowships from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the National Endowment for the Arts, Chamber Music America, Tanglewood, and others. He has held residencies in the U.S. at Yaddo, Djerassi, Ragdale, and the MacDowell and Millay colonies. His international residencies include the Camargo Foundation (France), the Bogliasco Foundation (Italy), the Rockefeller International Study Center (Italy), and the Youkobo Art Space and Tokyo Wonder Site (Japan). Carl is chair of the composition department at the Hartt School, University of Hartford. (robertcarlcomposer.com)

“Robert Carl would seem to have a hard time writing dull music.” (Boston Globe) “[Carl’s] writing is free of the predictable trappings and dogma, conveying an intelligence that doesn’t need to bury itself in theory in order to express something serious and compelling.” (Time Out New York) “[Carl’s] work possesses a great deal of immediate, surface appeal, and yet every piece has deeper layers that repay further listening and consideration.” (Fanfaremagazine)

The performer

Alison Bjorkedal, a Grammy-winning harpist, is a member of Southwest Chamber Music and has performed with the San Diego Symphony, Pasadena Symphony, Long Beach Symphony, Long Beach Opera, Opera Santa Barbara, Just Strings, and wildUp. She has recorded music by Wadada Leo Smith, Harry Partch, James Tenney, and others on the Microfest, New World, Cuneiform, and Bridge labels. “Bjorkedal’s harp swept us away. She is an extraordinary harpist. . . . Her technique was flawless, her artistry inspired.” (LA Culture Spot)

Comments

“An excellent, and sadly, however, an all-too-short work.”—Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly