I discovered Stephen Chatman on radio (where I make a lot of discoveries of composers heretofore unknown to me). I find it interesting that for a long time Americans have been insular listeners and concert-goers. We have focused on Ives, Copland and their colleagues and followers while being oblivious to a host of English-speaking composers in the UK, Canada, and Australia.
Chatman (a Canadian) deserves a lot more attention than he gets. His work is rich in imagination and diversity, and his voice is unique and distinctive. So many composers today seem to borrow from each other, copying currently popular mannerisms. Not so Chatman. He cannot be easily labeled or categorized.
I encounter so many works that I would not care to hear again, sometimes because they are too cerebral, sometimes because they are too cliched and "easy". Chatman's work is accessible without being the least slick or cheesy; they are complex and sophisticated in ways that invite further listening; and further consideration always yields new discoveries.
And, most important of all, Chatman's music is from and of the heart and body as well as the head. These pieces affect a listener's whole being, and in so many ways. I believe that is what discerning listeners yearn for, whether they know it consciously or not.
Although I like the choral work on this album a great deal, my favorite tracks are “Prairie Dawn,” “Tara's Dream,” and "Crimson Dream". The Dream tracks really do demand relistenings. He ably captures the surreal juxtapositions and weird transitions of night dreams by shifting styles and bringing in echoes of other pieces of music. “Tara's Dream” opens with a peaceful drifting, suddenly moves to overlapping disparate music (a la Ives), and then shifts to something like a Mozart piano concerto with rag-time bits and jazz sprinkled in. The piece ends as it began, in dreamy drifting. It is a very inventive and highly successful rendering in sound of a dream experience. The same can be said of "Crimson Dream", which has warped echoes of the third movement of Mahler's Second Symphony woven through it.
All in all, this is a fascinating and diverse collection of some of the best current music I’ve heard in a long time.