Ab nou cor
From instincts for imagery and fondness of fanciful foddercome creations both complex and clear. In such mixtures where clarity and convolution abound, both high discourse and direct ideas can emerge…when craftily composed. Such is in practice in the workings of American composer Frank Brickle whose music presented here reveals a purity of purpose bound with a richness of concept and sound.
The Creation: A Towneley Mystery Play (2004-8),a little and powerful opera for soprano, puppets, and instruments, recasts the biblical story of the creation of the world. Rich is reference in sound to music of the middle-ages, the music entwines text taken from the Wakefield Mystery Plays of the fourteenth century. The late-middle English poetry presents an elegant narrative as God fashions, in the first five days, the creation of the universe. What follows is a brief telling of the creation of the angels including the most splendid (and arrogant) Lucifer revealed in one of the most subtlest and beguiling portrayals. Although this work is miniature in its mindset it puts forth an experience operatic in scope. Two synthesized pieces Beim Schlafengehen (1995) –a lullaby- and Scent (1996)are both elegantly modest in their etude-like desire to explore post-tonal paths and new compositional courses. So simple seems the opening intonations yet the paths the music takes constantly renew a sense of dialogue and connection.
Arrangements of pre-existing works, Berceuse Elegiaque (2003)and Sederunt Principes (2004)are both contributions to concert events inspired by Pre-Raphaelite ideals. These re-compositions can be appreciated in keeping with this nineteenth-century artistic movement that embraced the notion of genuine inspiration spiraled with raw human craftsmanship. One of the earliest grand pillars of Western music, Sederunt was at first a colossal vocal organum by the Notre Dame composer Leonin who flourished in the high-Gothic period of the twelfth century. A work for solo piano in its original guise, Berceuse Elegiaque was composed by Ferruccio Busoni in 1909. Although transcriptions here in these re-tellings, a crispness of tone and brightness of color prevails.
Created for a bicentennial celebration of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Merlin (2004)is the final musical outcome resulting from composition renderings that, shortly after completion, were withdrawn out of artistic dissatisfaction. The re-born work that emerged drew upon those small moments of that abandoned artifact that nonetheless resonated with intrigue and truths. It is noteworthy that such a compositional attitude that re-evaluates material beyond its previous understood meaning in order to achieve deeper awareness, embraces in itself a transcendental stance so in keeping with the poet’s original school of thought.
Here in this work leads a logic of musical organization and flow that resides so convincingly between tonal and non-tonal worlds.
“The spirit of the place,” Genius Loci (2008)acknowledges the existence of places particular to special hauntings and the sense we often have that a ghostly presence both special and poignant resides in a unique physical location. Here in this short work, a boisterous tune revisits; yet each time a different shadow is cast, a different angle presented -fleeting like a phantom, yet a friendly one. A piano four-hand work for students In Medias Res (2009)plays with the manner in which the young may approach the keyboard, bound to the middle register, carefree and bold…and yet the work unfolds and explores as it envisions -perhaps as a child would- the majesty of maturity.
“I’m going to make a song about nothing…” is the opening declamation in Farai un vers (2009)a work of troubadour grace and whimsy for soprano, two guitars, and violoncello. Based upon verse by the Occitan lyric poet Guilliaume X, the concluding lines, “I’ve made a song, who it’s about I have no idea” frames an intriguing contradictory discourse in which a nutty narrative constantly turns and trips over its own traces. Soulful swoops and spontaneous frolicking. Another setting of Medieaval Occidental verse by Raimbaut d’Aurenga Ab nou cor (2010) is scored for soprano and theorbo, alate-Renaissance plucked instrument of grand stature.In keeping with troubadour traits this song sets sexy imagery both simple and sophisticated. Folktunish simplicity and forward intent embrace the rather provocative play with warmth and confident charm.
A dazzling work both sparkling and yet lazy in sound, Midnight Round (2010)is a musical round that shimmers in its simplicity, as single lines follow one after another. Although such imitative unfolding builds in terraced architecture, sounds here never overgrow and crowed each other. What emerges suggests the natural tapestry of sounds that one may experiences late at night when sounds builds yet always maintains a texture of cool transparency. The canonic sounds of carillon bells and chimes also resound through allusion.
A final lagniappe of sorts Denk Es, O Seele! (2006)is small gift-setting of the verse that concludes Morike’s Mozart Trip to Prague. Throughout a traveling tone almost suggestive of the poignant picaresque passages of Schubert’s song cycles prevails.
These works in themselves are autonomous, conjuring their own contextual worlds; yet as group, they present a powerful package that paints an artistic arc colored with both complexity and clarity. Thus this collection brings a bounty of compositions spanning the years 1995-2010 featuring the fanciful fractured directions and composition thinking of this bold American creator.
For works recorded at Dreamflower Studio:
Marc Wolf, Producer
Jeremy Tressler, Engineer
For Tracks recorded at Purchase College Performing Arts Center, Theater C
Produced and Engineered by: Silas Brown, Legacy Sound
Assistant Engineers: Doron Schachter and James Perrella
The following institutions made this recording possible:
NEA (National Endowment for the Arts)
Composers Guild of New Jersey
The Kinney Memorial Trust
Vallotton, Felix 1865-1925
"Femme au bain" (Woman bathing), 1895.-Oil on canvas, 98 x 130cm. Private Collection.
Additional Thanks to Rosa M. Dolce