Contemporary Journeys For Flute
Take Wing, Roll Back: Contemporary Journeys Tessa Brinkman, flutes. Kathleen Supove, piano. Caroline Delume, guitar. Horomona Horo, taonga puoro. Todd Barton, Buchla. New Focus Recordings 396 Total Time: 61:08 Recording: ****/****Performance: ****/****
Take Wing, Roll Back is a new release featuring flautist/composer Tessa Brinckman. The contemporary pieces here present music from six composers. The pieces as a whole tend to assign the flute lines that are a blend of folkish, global inflections within more European sound worlds. However, the atmospheric approaches create unique landscapes of their own that are often quite fascinating while exemplifying the different styles and approaches of their respective composers.
The album opens with Dawn Brightens the Day of Mortals Robed in Purple (1992). Norio Fukushi’s piece is a delicate exploration that features interesting interactions between the flute and guitar here. The line of the flute in particular provides suggestions of an underlying program (an accompanying poem is actually shared in the notes). It is a quite accessible work as is Zeuze (2014) by Andile Khumalo which explores African musics in its sound world. A bit of this is also present in Wade Through the Water (2023) which has a beautiful alto flute setting within a more modern hybridization of these other non-European cultures. Pieces like this also offset some of the more experimental styles that appear in You Never Come Out of the Sun (2023) by Cara Stacey. The piece uses a variety of techniques that reference folk musics of the Maori, Bahia, and Africa both within its melodic content, rhythmic complexity, and extended techniques demanded of the performers. Todd Barton’s Sonus Redux: And the Wave Rolled Back (2020) finds Brinckman using Baroque flutes and meshing this with multiple lines of flute sounds. Brinckman also contributed to the work’s construction with a prepared piano that shapes the often ethereal sound world captured by the electronic atmospheres (created with a Buchla). Brinckman’s own Taniwha (2023) provides another look at melding musical gestures of using indigenous percussion and musical approaches of the Maori people in a fascinating work. The more personal, A Cracticus Fancie (2017) is a slightly earlier work that blends field recordings, a reading of a poem by Denis Glover’s The Magpie, live playback and processed piccolo. The penultimate work on the album. Tenderness of Cranes (1990), by Shirish Korde, in a sense brings us back to the opening work on the album in terms of its musical language and cultural references. Here, the flute is treated much like a shakuhachi, a Japanese flute, and Korde’s music blends both contemporary techniques as well as requiring approaches that are common to the Asian instrumental style of play, sound, and attack.
Throughout the release, one is struck at both the various potentialities of writing for flute and the way these various other cultures can be interconnected with Western stylistic approaches and affectations. But, more importantly, listeners will be drawn in by Brinckman’s tone color and gorgeous playing (even in the more dissonant musical moments of these pieces). She is given ample opportunity to demonstrate a variety of unique sound techniques and musical approaches. The sound is captured in a perfectly balanced studio backdrop that brings her sound centrally into the picture with just enough reverb to add to the warmer aspects of the music as needed. The virtuosity required for this music will be likely overlooked at first, but repeated hearings will demonstrate the wide range and ability Brinckman has for her instrument. It is all quite engaging music that is sequenced well to draw one in to the unique musical worlds that inspire the atmospheric realms on this fascinating journey.