von “the NY Times”

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.)

von Sequenza21

Through Autumn into Winter

One of my friends, Jeremy Sagala, has recently released an album of his chamber and electronic works called Through Autumn into Winter. The music is rich with gestures and thick harmonies.  Each piece flows through fluid and coherent forms without being derivative or hard to track.  Quality orchestration abounds, no more so than in Tenebrae (pierrot+percussion, a commission from NYNME).  Theses are all compositions of intense craftsmanship and nuance, but put in a package that is comparatively easy to digest as a listener.  Jeremy’s harmonic language is spectral-ish.  Instead of fixating on one single sonic space for a work he maps spectral paths through intriguing progressions.  The end result is a compelling and expansive-yet-forward-moving pitch dialectic.

All of the works on the disc, be they electronic or not, are realized with virtual instruments.  This works extremely well on on tracks like Jukai for harpsichord, recorder, and live electronics where the live instruments have a rather seamless blend with the electronic world.  Le parallele est devenu oblique (saxophone, piano, and electronics) and the title track (flute, piano, and electronics) are a bit more obvious about their virtual nature but serve as excellent doppelgangers.  If nothing else, these virtual recordings should inspire many to perform and record an “almost unplugged” version of this music.

(original review posted here)