MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Recommended New Release: Luís Tinoco’s  Archipelago

Have you heard the wonderful music of Luís Tinoco? I invite you to try out the latest album of his work, Archipelago, recently released on the Odradek label.

I first encountered this excellent Portuguese composer and acclaimed radio host — who grew up in the post-revolution generation — in the early Morlot days with Seattle Symphony, when they played FrisLand, a kind of orchestral ode to Bill Frisell. (FrisLand is available, along with such works as Tinoco’s Cello Concerto, on his previous Odradek album, The Blue Voice of the Water).

Tinoco, 50, has written some pieces for the stage as well as vocal and orchestral works. Archipelago focuses on chamber pieces featuring percussion and surveys Tinoco’s musical language over the past two decades.

The composer’s father was a professional painter and an amateur jazz musician, and the obvious camaraderie Tinoco enjoys with the Porto-based Drumming Grupo de Percussão (Drumming GP) — though he himself is not a performer — suggests an intriguing blend of working with a classical chamber ensemble and a tight-knit jazz band.

Drumming GP, led by Miquel Barnat and celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, has earned a strong reputation for its boundary-crossing projects. Tinoco first collaborated with the group when they commissioned him in 2003, and he dedicates to them the album’s culminating work, Steel Factory (another of the several pieces they have commissioned from him over the years).

Archipelago was recorded in the monastery of São Bento da Vitória in Porto. The album is also available in 5.1 surround, so you can immerse yourself entirely in the expert production by sound engineers Hugo Romano Guimarães and Santi Barguñó.

Tinoco has included several pieces from the early 2000s. The opening track, Short Cuts, revisits his 2004 saxophone quartet, refashioned here for percussion. Already in this early stage of his career, Tinoco was developing a language centered on deftly channeled currents of energy, here intensified through the alluring timbral combinations he has devised anew for the percussion ensemble.

Another early piece, the circular Ends Meet, is for marimba and string quartet and was originally written for the percussionist Pedro Carneiro. Tinoco derives fascinating dramatic impulses from the combination of these sound worlds over the course of this four-movement piece as it continually revisits material from different perspectives.

Mind the Gap from 2000, is the earliest piece here, a product of Tinoco’s years as a postgraduate student in London, and charts a variety of journeys with solo marimba.

If Tinoco’s neatly chiseled rhythmic patterns evoke a sense of distances traveled, the recent Genetically Modified Fados (2018, a commission from Drumming GP) oscillates back and forth in time. Tinoco juxtaposes music for percussion quartet with archival recordings of Portuguese Fado featuring male and female singers. These faded, embedded artefacts strip away any sentimentality from the nostalgia. The radiant ghostliness of the triptych’s third panel, Camellias, is especially spellbinding.

In Zoom in – Zoom out, another Drumming GP commission (2010, dedicated to Bernat), Tinoco turns to the popular music of Brazil subliminally by alluding to its rhythmic patterns and melodic structures. It is scored for a trio playing vibraphone, two marimbas, and two bass drums.

The most recently composed music is the title track (2019, also dedicated to Bernat), which is for solo vibraphone and eight wah-wah tubes. Archipelago is a stunningly beautiful poem made of subtly timed resonances, exquisitely micro-tonal differentiations in the tuning of the tubes, and a carefully calibrated dramaturgy of varying mallets and bowings (and even hands). Archipelago submerges the listener in a hauntingly liquescent environment. Add it to your list of evocative water musics.

Archipelago also makes for a fascinating contrast with the grand finale and longest track, Steel Factory (2006). In this piece for an ensemble of steel drums, Tinoco again foregrounds his music of energy, starting with deep, ominous pulsations that set the stage for its highly theatrical gestures. The sound world here also incorporates bongos and steel bars (sixens) and elicits an astonishing variety, later building to a thrillingly clangorous climax.

Review (c) 2019 Thomas May — All rights reserved

Filed under: CD review, new music, new release, percussion, Uncategorized

Now Listening: Brooklyn Rider’s The Butterfly

Martin Hayes & Brooklyn Rider_The Butterfly_Mini.jpg

The Butterfly adds another chapter to Brooklyn Rider’s innovative collaborations with such figures as with Béla Fleck, Gabriel Kahane, Kayhan Kalhor, and, most recently, Jonathan Redman — in the process, reimagining the potential of the string quartet as a medium.

On The Butterfly, the Irish fiddle master Martin Hayes joins with Brooklyn Rider to explore what the string quartet lineup can bring to Irish traditional music. They began their collaboration in 2009 and recorded these tracks in 2016.

Colin Jacobsen, composer and violinist with Brooklyn Rider, observes that Hayes “represented to us something essential about music that we sometimes felt was missing within the classical training we were receiving back in school. To me, it is the infinitely varied inflections, and the depth of expression within what could seem like a deceptively simple tune, which make Martin a master storyteller with his instrument.”

Martin became fascinated by the prospect of their collaboration. “Through the help of a number of brilliant arrangers who are fluent with
both string quartet writing and Irish traditional music, such as Ljova, Dana Lyn and Kyle Sanna,” observes Jacobsen, “we found a framing for the tunes that feels true to some essential thing about both traditions.”

Jacobsen contributed his own arrangements of “O’Neill’s March” and “The Butterfly.” “I thought [“O’Neill’s March”] could sound beautiful through the layering and textural options available to a string quartet,” he explains, while for “The Butterfly” he wanted “to take the tune further out in the direction of contemporary classical string writing … to try to take this butterfly to a place it might never have flown before.”

The release also includes the premiere recording of “Maghera Mountain,” which Hayes wrote in his teens, alongside familiar material often regarded as “throwaway tunes … that are on longer taken very seriously,” according to Hayes. “In reality, these are simple, profound and very beautiful melodies.”

“Many of the major developments in Irish music have historically come through musical interaction with musicians from outside the tradition bringing with them new ideas and fresh energy,” says Hayes. “To collaborate, it’s important not to compromise on what is fundamental and core, but it is also equally important to be flexible. One must surrender the desire to control the outcome and allow people you work with to make their choices with freedom.”

Filed under: Brooklyn Rider, Irish Music, new release

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

RSS Arts & Culture Stories from NPR