Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Listening List: 4. Cody Brookshire

The Listening List is a blog series in which I listen and critique two pieces by my composer friends. I was inspired by Rob McClure's similar series, "Music With Friends." For most pieces, I plan to listen twice, with scores where available, and jot down some initial thoughts. My intention is to force myself to engage more with my friends' music, not just to offer unsolicited feedback. After my first entry, I found that this blog will probably demonstrate me wrestling with my own thoughts and biases about music as much as it will review the work of contemporary composers.

Cody Brookshire's site:

Cody is a DMA student at the University of Georgia. I met him at a concert there, where he was performing some software that remixes MIDI data and sending it to a Disklavier. Neat stuff.

thy angels watch me... - prepared harp

I first heard this piece at UGA last spring (we didn't meet until fall). I had a good impression of it then and am happy to hear it again. In his program notes, Cody speaks of the contrast between comfort and unsettling feelings of being watched by angels. I think the mood of the piece captures that sentiment well. The harp is prepared with beads, which jangle sympathetically, mostly in the low register. It's fairly subtle, which is good. I like the pitch world, which emphasizes and juxtaposes minor triads and augmented triads. I think it could be spiced up rhytmically, as some sections settle into straight 16ths when they seem to beg for more push and pull.

Irreconcilable Differences - String Quartet

With this piece also, Cody is dealing with contrast. There are two clearly articulated ideas: what I would call the "folk song chorale" and the "pulses." They intersect and transform each other as the piece progresses. I like the concept and process but I felt that the piece meandered a bit too much, especially toward the end. Maybe some trimming here and there to cut out two minutes or so would make it feel more cohesive. I also felt that the voice spacing in the chorale could take some TLC; e.g. the viola and cello would sometimes be close together with a wide space below the violins. Definitely some potential here.

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