MICHAEL GORDON (b.1956): The Unchanging Sea, Beijing Harmony.
Catalogue Number: 09U064
Description: The Bang on a Can co-founder's video collaboration with Bill Morrison is a half-hour orchestral canvas in slowly undulating, pulsating rhythmic patterns, not unlike John Luther Adams' Become Ocean (10Q010), here with the solo piano contributing bells tolling in the depths and the scintillations of light on the surface. The whole, appropriately, has an ominous, elemental quality; this is an uncaring, wild ocean of mysterious, unfathomable depths, not a seaside picture-postcard. Most of the work has little in the way of development, but in the final section the music is whipped up into a violent storm, tumultuous and more dissonant than anything that preceded it. The project takes its title and the basis of Morrison's accompanying video (on the bonus DVD) from a 1910 film by D. W. Griffith, of which the film-maker acquired a decayed print, which he edited together with extracts from 16 other short films dating from 1897 to 1925 to produce a new, ambiguous sea-themed narrative. Old film stock, especially when not stored carefully " ... doth suffer a sea-change / Into something rich and strange" and the decomposing images acquire an abstract, liquid quality which become part of the film's sense of sinister foreboding, heightened by the music's evocation of the superhuman scale and might of the ocean. Beijing Harmony's slowly changing layers and waves of sound evoke the acoustical phenomena of the 'Echo Wall' of Beijing's Temple of Heaven. The work is one long crescendo of volume and density, culminating in 'fanfares of echoes' as overlapping planes of sound produce swelling and receding harmonic undulations. CD + DVD. Tomoko Mukaiyama (piano), Seattle Symphony; Pablo Rus Broseta.