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ClassicsOnline Home » GORDON, M.: Timber (Slagwerk Den Haag)
Michael Gordon/ Slagwerk Den Haag/ Timber/Cantaloupe
I should preface this review by saying I’m a huge Michael Gordon fan. If there was a cult to join I might be blindly sucked in, if a light show was included. I only feel that way about a handful of living composers and here is why concerning Mr. Gordon. The music is like a stare that you can’t look away from. It is a stare where all you see are the eyes, no other features—no mouth, nose, or cheeks. It is the stare of God that sees all your ridiculous foibles and you are stuck like Adam, frozen in the garden clutching a fig leaf.
‘Timber’ is that ‘stare’ x 100, with 6-pitched 2x4's that makes for a very focused experience. I have to say if I really listened to this entire CD intently, I would cut off all my appendages and join the priesthood, live in silence in the basement of some forgotten monastery. If you listen less intently, it is like a bath for the soul where you are cleanse of the memory of any 12-tone music, bad lounge acts, or ump-pah-pah bands you might have kicking around in the inner sanctum of your mind. If you listen even less intently and do your bills or taxes, then you are doing your bills in space in some kind of capsule that seems sure to run out of oxygen.
Given the limited musical articulation tools, all Gordon has to play with are harmonic rhythm (usually undulating tremolos faster and faster), texture (created by louder or softer playing) and actual notated rhythms or motives of the 16th/8th note variety. The first section starts with the tremolos and ends with a typical Gordon sped up harmonic rhythm climax which then goes back to the opening, only simpler, long undulations of single pitches (Movement 2). By now it’s the overtones that are impeding ones ability to think clearly. Muscles start to seize inexplicably. A slight tick in the eye. Oh my God, I’m only at 14 minutes. How am I going to get through this? A tightness in the chest around 16 minutes. I wish I had electrodes attached to a mountain of monitoring equipment, so I could record exactly what time each one of my organs exploded.
Those overtones. Anyone see that 1950’s sci-fi movie based on the Tempest—what was the name of that movie–I can’t think–there was a robot somewhere, a dark inky cloud also. Harmonic rhythm speeding up but in waves now. If you happen to be doing your taxes now you’re going to prison for some highly inaccurate, self-preservation math. The undulating waves turning to granular synthesis, textured climax.
I’m at part 3—long held notes that suddenly move to a climax. My breathing is relaxing slightly but let’s not get too optimistic. There is an underling tension and menacing foreshadowing, that says it’s not going to get better. We are back to the undulating harmonic rhythms, which become extended to identifiable notated rhythms.
Movement 4 moves logically to the articulated 8th notes triplets (?) enveloping louder and softer. The 6 pitches overlap one another in all the possible permutations. Each permutation has different overtone sequence which again I’m back in thamore....
By Michael Quinn
The Classical Review
By Merlin Patterson
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GORDON, M.: Timber (Slagwerk Den Haag)