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Customer Reviews

Rockin' New Music

So great to finally hear these recordings! I heard Design/Construction in its partial, then complete, premieres. It and the rest of the pieces on the album are at once accessible and deeply interesting, rewarding multiple hearings. The performers (including the late, great Steven Bodner) really deliver, and Kechley's writing keeps the excitement high. Definitely recommend this album, particularly for those new to/curious about what's new in classical music or looking for something with a drive.

Fascinating pieces, excellent performances, beautifully-recorded

Kechley's Inventive and colorful writing really shines through in the wonderful performances on this beautifully-recorded disc. Engaging and multi-faceted while remaining accessible, this music is a must-listen for anyone interested in contemporary chamber music. Hopefully this terrific disc will bring these pieces to a much-deserved wider audience!

Design and Construction

David Kechley's new CD, Colliding Objects, is a powerful and engaging survey of works by the composer from the early 1980's through the current day. What strikes me as I listen to this music is that Kechley is an omnivore, a composer with a roving and curious ear, not content to settle into one single style or idiom. From the tense rigor of Design and Construction to the passionate delicacy of Available Light, his music displays a wide range of colors, harmonies and ways of treating both horizontal and vertical musical space. That being said, his works are united by several qualities, chiefly his great interest in and use of motoric rhythms, and his highly detailed deployment of timbre.

Dancing, the earliest work, is a kaleidoscopic work for percussion ensemble in four movements, a survey of the vast potential of percussion sounds. Each movement focuses on a different timbral area: Bug Dance, for example, uses sandpaper blocks, shakers, drums and guiros to create a teeming, multilayered soundscape of scratchy noises. Dream Dance is suspended and hazy, War Dance is martial and jittery, and the opening movement, One-Legged Dance, has a delightful off-kilter quality.

On first listen, the dry metallic and wooden sounds of Design and Construction certainly recall some sounds in Dancing, and the pieces do share a generally propulsive momentum. But Design and Construction (scored for the excellent ensemble of sax, trumpet and percussion) is lither and more precise than the earlier work. It is music stripped down to essentials, intensely focused on a carefully chosen set of timbral, rhythmic and harmonic materials. Though there is a great deal of contrast built into the piece, the music is always disciplined and tightly constructed. There is much lyricism here, but it is taut, steely lyricism, lyricism with an edge. And the more runaway moments, like the propulsive third movement, retain the concision and discipline of the quieter ones.

If the next work, Untimely Passages, feels slightly less substantial than the others on this CD, perhaps it is because of its form, a chaconne, which features a steadily repeating progression in the marimba. Or because it is the sole single movement work here! Particularly lovely, however, is the way the marimba slowly climbs into the top of its register about two-thirds through the piece, the repeated progression turned into a delicate whisper, but still retaining a sense of urgency, an unsettling tenseness.

Available Light, scored for flute and harp, is full of beguiling and bewitching sounds, a virtuosic showcase for the performers. Kechley's sure hand with both these instruments is clear. The piece manages to be both delicate and passionate: the opening, for example, features a series of brittle, gossamer harp arpeggios and high, fierce flute tremolos. The third movement is particularly effective, as a gorgeous, mournful flute line unfolds over plaintive mid-register harp chords.

The final work and title track, Colliding Objects, is in many ways the most substantial and difficult to penetrate on first listen. But that is because of the scale of this work, the immense detail and proliferation of motives, and the dream-like way it unfolds and changes, sometimes quickly and without warning. The first movement recalls some of Kechley's earlier works, in particular the driving energy of In the Dragon's Garden, though this piece is less extroverted and more restrained. I particularly like the second movement, where large spaces of silence and plucked string piano notes eventually build to widely spaced, majestic chords.

Aside from a handful of boomy harp notes in the second movement of Available Light, these recordings are pristine and clear. And the performers deserve much credit: Kechley's music makes great technical and emotional demands of them, and they respond with tremendous energy, passion and precision. As a fellow composer, I know how much the care and dedication of your colleagues can mean, and that dedication is abundantly clear on this CD.

David Kechley: Colliding Objects, Timetable
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