I Hear It in the Rain   CB0004

The music

Five Pieces for Piano (1997), Two Preludes for Piano (1996-97), and For Celesta (1985)—the latter for an instrument that is very seldom featured in a solo setting—display Fink’s command of crystalline forms that are Debussyian in beauty (and occasionally in gesture) yet hold a distinctly contemporary artistic distance from their musical materials. These fragile and primarily extremely quiet pieces are performed with great aplomb by Bryan Pezzone.

Living to be Hunted by the Moon (1987) is a dark, slow-moving study of texture and tone color for two clarinets, two bass clarinets and sampled sounds. Built from four parallel pentatonic scales, it treats the listener to many unexpected harmonic twists and turns as it broadens in range.

I Hear It in the Rain (1985) is a moody, insistent piece that glistens with electric timbres, particularly Rick Cox’s highly idiosyncratic electric guitar work, and delicate percussion.

The composer

Michael Jon Fink’s 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 L.A. Fringe Festival, New Music America, Festival Commune di Chiesa, the Martes Musicales, the Marquette Festival of New Music, the CalArts Contemporary Music Festival, and other festivals and concerts throughout the U.S. and Europe. His orchestra works have been commissioned and performed by the Antelope Valley Symphony, the Classical Philharmonic, the Symphony of the Canyons, and the Santa Monica Symphony and have featured soloists David Stenske (violin), Marty Walker (clarinet), Erica Duke-Kirkpatrick (cello), and Douglas Masek (soprano saxophone). Fink’s incidental music for the William Butler Yeats play Deirdre, was featured at the1996 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He has performed and recorded with the new music ensembles Negative Band and Stillife and has works released on the Cold Blue, Raptoria Caam, Bare Bones, and CRI record labels. Fink teaches composition at the California Institute of the Arts. The Los Angeles Times has described Fink’s music as “lustrous” and “metaphysically tinged” and likened it to the work of the late composer Morton Feldman.

The performers

Bryan Pezzone is one of Los Angeles’s premier freelance pianists. He has worked with such noted conductors as Pierre Boulez, Oliver Knussen, John Adams, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Kent Nagano and performed as a soloist with many major orchestras, including the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, where he was principal pianist from 1991 through1999. He performs regularly at the Monday Evening Concerts, the Green Umbrella Series, the Southwest Chamber Music Series, and the Ojai Festival and has performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, the Joffrey Ballet (soloist in Stravinsky’s Les Noces), and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. He also tours with the jazz group Free Flight. Bryan has been the pianist on virtually all of the cartoons released by Warner Brothers and Disney over the past seven years. His recent recordings include works by John Harbison, Mel Powell, John Briggs, and John Cage.

Marty Walker is a clarinetist who specializes in the performance new music (he has premiered more than 80 works written especially for him). Among the labels for which he has recorded are O.O.Discs, Tzadik, Cold Blue, and Rastacan. In January 2001, CRI released a new Walker recording of works for clarinet/bass clarinet, including the premiere recording of Fink’s Din/Epitaph (for solo bass clarinet). Walker has toured and recorded with various new-music ensembles, including the California EAR Unit, the Robin Cox Ensemble, Xtet, Viklarbo, and Ghost Duo. The Los Angeles Times called Walker’s playing “masterfully expressive;” El Nacional (Mexico City) wrote that his playing “took the audience to another musical dimension;” and Option magazine called him “one of the finest new-music clarinetists in the country.”

Dan Morris is a percussionist who is adept at many types of music, including jazz, Western classical, and Indian classical (Karnatic music). He has performed with Smashing Pumpkins, Ravi Coltrane, Glen Velez, James Carney, Glen Moore, Jon Butcher, Larry Karush, and the Aman Folk Ensemble. He also has performed as a session player for film scores.

Rick Cox is a multi-instrumentalist and composer. As a featured performer (woodwinds, guitar, and samplers), he can be heard on such popular film scores as The Shawshank Redemption, The Horse Whisperer, and American Beauty and on a number of recordings by jazz/new-music trumpeter Jon Hassell.


[U]napologetically tranquil…coaxing substance from seemingly vaporous materials.”Los Angeles Times

“Music of ethereal simplicity—slow, whispering single-voiced melodies whose notes create internal, fading harmonies. Fink’s music seems of another era, but he has shaped and refined his spare style greatly—it is distinctly his own.” —LA Weekly

“Spare, refined, wholesome, satisfying…. If Erik Satie had lived in the early 21st century, he might have written in this fashion…quiet, harmonically beguiling. Fink is onto something. Check it out.”—Michael Barone, Minnesota Public Radio

“The ethereal feel of Satie and the dreaminess of Debussy.”All-Music Guide

“Infinite poetry in sound.”Blow Up magazine (Italy)

“All very evocative.”International Record Review

“Feldman, Satie, and Liszt are suggested by the solo-keyboard works; I Hear It in the Rain suggests Gavin Bryars’s early ECM New Series discs.”Fanfare magazine

“Works of stunning beauty and simplicity…. [T]hey whisper to you in the night, a single solitary voice that echoes from within the silence.” —Incursion Music Review (Canada)

“The title I Hear It in the Rain aptly sums it up: patinas of notes, near and far, heard and half-heard. It’s an astonishing, entrancing album, careful and considered, yet never too precious or conceited.” —Rupert Loydell, Tangents (UK)

Often it’s as simple as this—for true treasure, let go of the precious. Michael Jon Fink—operating within New Music but sidestepping much of its systematic, lab-dulled pretention—proves it on this album of close-up and subtle music…. There’s something of Gavin Bryars’s evanescent emotional skill to Fink’s music, something of the soft spatial blur of the Evanses (Bill and Gil)…. This is not about feelings being directly manipulated. Fink’s music induces them, drawing into the gaps and implications between the notes. A lot of it is timing: the attuned sensibilities of a performer and a composer both inspired by the subtle, near-telepathic interreactions of small-group jazz…. I could go on and on to you about the restraint and wisdom in Michael Jon Fink’s work. But what gets me every time is its sheer and honest beauty. There’s a disciplined mind at work here, but one in touch with such universality of feelings that praising his deft economy and musical grammar seems reductive. I could pin him down further for you, but what matters might be beyond by reach—though, even as I finish this, it’s come filtering through the air to reach back to me again. Simple. Special. Indispensable.” —Misfit City (UK)

I Hear It in the Rain kicks off with Five Pieces for Piano, which, as its name might hint, is chock-full of super sparse, forlorn solo piano and celesta music of the highest order. For Celesta stands out from the gloom with its simple, sprightly melody that recalls a child’s musical box. The centerpiece of the disk, Living to be Hunted by the Moon, is a 20-minute-long fog bank full of of dim, sublime drones emitted from a clarinet, bass clarinet and samples. Boasting an electric guitar, glass guitar, sponge guitar, electric bass, electronic keyboard and percussion, the title track closes out the disk with a slowly pulsing, gentle waft of incredibly nice ambient chamber “rock” that is about a million different kinds of pleasant.” —Arcane Candy

I Hear It In The Rain deals with silence, serenity and slow time and gives voice to the interaction between academic methodology and the blur of ambient music.” —Chuck van Zyl, Star’s End

“Combining the crystalline beauty of Debussy with the quiet impermanence of Erik Satie…a calm musical universe related to the one developed by the late Morton Feldman.”—I Heard a Noise webzine (Romania)

“Simultaneously wide-open and house-of-cards delicate compositions.” —Marcelo Aguirre, ei magazine

“Driving down Sunset Boulevard while listening to Michael Jon Fink’s Five Pieces for Piano. Outside the car is a visual world of garish movie billboards, hectic people, the deep red of the Whisky A Go Go, and the spring purple blooms of the jacaranda tree (via Virginia Postrel). Inside, distant from all that stimulation, the piano music is sparse, quiet, and yet sharp; Cage’s In a Landscape but more intense. The five pieces are Passing, Mode, Fragment, Echo, and Epitaph. The CD is Fink’s I Hear It in the Rain, another from Cold Blue.” — Robert Gabel, aworks “new” american classics

“I sometimes dream I’ve been given a chance to make a feature film. It’s a free-form adaptation of the children’s book The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper, nothing like the horrible Hollywood treatment it got in 2007. Maybe the film will run for days—maybe it will adapt only one image or element in the story and be over in minutes, but the opening credits always show a bus in South London, early winter, grinding to a halt at a terminus. The shadows between the bus and the wall, the movement of birds on the trees, briefly form the outline of a face, something gliding, fugitive, almost unnoticed, through the world. The whole point of representing ‘the dark’—the supernatural, shapeshifting force described in the book- would be to depict it as a part of other, everyday things. Something briefly glimpsed in the corner of the eye in a shopping mall, rather than an obvious phantasm.

“Michael Jon Fink’s I Hear it in the Rain is always the soundtrack to this film. The ninth track, Living to be Hunted by the Moon, would play as the camera panned to a wall of trees at the edge of a field, fog slowly gathering and moving outwards over nineteen long minutes to besiege a house. Echo, the fourth: the movement of undulating river water as lost objects slip away under the waves. I still see these scenes when I listen to the record. Maybe they come from the record itself.

I Hear it in the Rain is a collection of spare and beautiful instrumental pieces recorded between 1986 and 1997 by classically trained musicians in California. Instruments used are celesta, piano, glass guitar (whatever this actually is, it does sound like a guitar made of glass), clarinet, samples, electric bass and percussion. It was released on the Cold Blue Music label in 2001. Around the time it came out I was bored of the same old guitar bands and trying out other things I’d meant to get round to hearing one day: one CD each of Japanese noise, musique concrete, skronky jazz, dub, Detroit techno. Rough Trade Shop stuff. Officially, I Hear It in the Rain falls into the ‘post-minimalist’ category. No, me neither. Amazon bafflingly lists it as ‘orchestral jazz.’ ‘Ambient’ doesn’t work—it’s too tightly wound, focussed and ominous. It perhaps shares some of the otherworldly mood of Alice Coltrane’s ecstatic, spiritual jazz, but is way less swaggering and full of itself. The titles of the tracks probably describe it best—it really is like music you would hear inside the rain: pieces called Passing, Mode, Fragment, Echo, and Epitaph.

“I first saw it mentioned in a roundup of new releases on http://www.tangents.co.uk, described as: ‘patinas of notes, near and far, heard and half-heard. It’s an astonishing, entrancing album, careful and considered, yet never too precious or conceited.’ I ordered the CD after reading that sentence. When it arrived it had that odd, magical attribute of feeling like something I’d always been looking for, but hadn’t known I was.

“As teenagers, we used to listen very closely to The Pictorial Jackson Review by Felt. My friends and I admired the elegance and feeling for space and composition on that record; the way that side A contained pop songs and side B only spacey, mysterious instrumentals. The fact that the two types of music could coincide naturally on the same record was incredibly inspiring to us. They were different but united by the same austere elegance. I could suddenly see a link between my classical guitar training and the pop music I loved. I Hear It in the Rain brought me back to that lightbulb moment; abstract music within my grasp again.

“Years later, a friend asked me to make a soundtrack for an art installation he was putting together. I recorded the trees around Epping Forest and then the sound of a harp’s strings being vibrated by the wind, and combined them, edited them into waves of sound which ebbed and flowed for twenty minutes with the rhythm of air moving through the woods. It was an attempt to get on the same spectrum as I Hear it in the Rain. Unhurried, and at the same time bringing in something disturbing—some indefinable extra voice which came from outside, something from the corner of the eye (or ear). A new kind of music, at least for me. And one which I have still not worked out how to combine with pop songs. I haven’t listened to The Pictorial Jackson Review in years, it’s done its job for me and I’ve moved on. A lot of game-changing, transformative records eventually get worn out in that way. But I still listen to I Hear It in the Rain and it still opens up new possibilities in sound.” —Alasdair Maclean, The New Perfect Collection (2015)