Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Listening List: 6. Rodrigo Bussad

Rod's website: http://www.rodrigobussad.com/

I met Rod at the excellent soundSCAPE festival in Italy in summer 2012. He recently finished his master's at the University of Miami, and is just an all-around cool guy. I'm going to (finally) check out his orchestral work Depois da Chuva (after the rain), for which he got second place in the American Prize for Orchestral music, as well as his chamber piece Loin, which won the chamber division of the same. He submitted Loin to our Terminus call for scores, and I really liked it. But it's tough! I hope we can get around to it sometime.

Depois da Chuva

This piece is over 17 minutes, so there is a lot to take in. Foremost, however, is that Rod has a great ear for orchestration. There is a lot of ear candy, and it's all well-balanced and thought out. I hear a lot of Asian influence (Takemitsu, maybe Tan Dun, etc.), which seems appropriate to the theme of rain/water, so prominent with some of those composers. I'm also getting some Stravinsky and Morricone vibes. Those who know my work know that I'm partial (committed?) to slow music, so I enjoyed the outer movements most. I wasn't sold on the repeated triplet motive at the end of the first movement, though. The ametric textures, with little effects popping in here and there, sounded great to me and I would have been fine with a movement of just that. The middle movement is much darker and more intense, but with a lot of variety and drive that kept me "in it." Ironically, perhaps, I really liked the repetitive woodblock/timpani groove.


On listening again, I think this piece is pretty frickin' great. The texture and mood is somewhat "static" throughout, though the surface is anything but. Rod makes a great combination of sustained tones, extended techniques (especially multiphonics and harmonics), and vocal sounds. It's continually shifting. Each time I've listened to it, I've stayed intrigued and engaged. But for many people, this is going to be a tough listen. It reminds me of what I was saying to Georgia State students a few months ago -- ask yourself if you're a melody person, rhythm person, timbre person, etc., then focus on that. As a timbre/texture person, I find a great deal to appreciate here. Others might be lost, but that's their loss (see what I did there?).

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