Classical CD Reviews

MCLEAN: “Soundworlds” = Concerto: States of Being; Ritual of the Dawn; Demons of the Night; Magic at Zanadu (MAX); Ice Canyons; Rainforest Images II – Barton McLean, keyboards/computer/ Ensemble – Innova

A new music composer strongly into ambient/environmental sounds as well as electronics.

Published on March 27, 2013

BARTON MCLEAN: “Soundworlds” = Concerto: States of Being; Ritual of the Dawn; Demons of the Night; Magic at Zanadu (MAX); Ice Canyons; Rainforest Images II – Barton McLean, keyboards/computer/ Ensemble – Innova 234 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

Sorry for being so tardy getting to this CD of 2010; it was in a pile I think I was saving for listening to with the analog ProLogic IIz height speakers option on to get some surround effect, since this is after all really an ambient surround effort that is unfortunately only a standard two-channel disc. Too bad Innova doesn’t have the budget to do multichannel SACD or Blu-ray for this music.

McLean was taught and mentored by Henry Cowell, also studied electronic music under Xenakis, and has been for two decades a director of major university electronic/computer music programs. He and his wife Prescilla have an electroacoustic duo called The McLean Mix and have performed around the world as well as done installations in museums and galleries.

I’ll start with one of the most interesting-to-me pieces of new music I’ve heard in some time: MClean’s Ritual of the Dawn, which features flutes, clarinet, harp and percussion, with MClean on piano. The quarter-hour work is the distillation of a ritualistic ceremony depicting the dawn of the new millennium, which was inspired by MClean’s research into ancient poetry of pre-Columbian Central America. It is difficult to believe it is tightly-written to sound the same each performance, because it sounds extremely ambient, evocative and loose.

His other work which is extremely ambient is the closing Rainforest Images II, on which MClean plays soprano recorder, a recorder with a clarinet mouthpiece, and keyboards; his wife on violin and voice; Paniaotis on voice and audio processing; and the sounds of birds sampled from the Peruvian Amazon and Australian rainforests.

The opening Concerto: States of Being has three movements which explore three distinct attitudes towards life. The opening thematic fragment is heard thruout the work in various disguises. Ice Canyons captures the beauty of sound within the austere landscape of the primeval glaciers of British Columbia.

TrackList:

1 Concerto: States of Being: I. Wonder
2 Concerto: States of Being: II. Attainment
3 Concerto: States of Being: III. Tranquility
4 Ritual of the Dawn
5 Demons of the Night
6 Magic at Xanadu (MAX)
7 Ice Canyons
8 Rainforest Images II

—John Sunier




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