TENEBRAE (performed by the New York New Music Ensemble at Merkin Hall, NYC)
Jeremy Sagala freighted his “Tenebrae” (2009) with a program note that described, in the densest academese, how he used FM synthesis to produce some of his harmonies, and spectral analysis of various bell tones and instrumental notes to suggest particular timbres. He might have profited from the example of Charles Wuorinen, who once ended a similarly abstruse (if less geeky) note by telling listeners who found his explanation perplexing to forget all about it and just enjoy the music. In the case of “Tenebrae” that advice would have been easy to follow. Mr. Sagala’s language is rugged but not harsh, and the timbres and gestures he used here — bent pitches, quarter tones, juxtapositions of introspection and explosiveness — yielded an undeniably dramatic sound world. You could even, after a moment or two, shake the impression, left by Mr. Sagala’s description, that the work was more about creating and solving puzzles than about expression.
(See the original post at the NYTimes here.)