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12.5.11

Dip Your Ears, No. 110 (The NOW Ensemble)

available at Amazon
Awake, NOW Ensemble

NOW Ensemble. Awake. The NOW Ensemble is a self-described “dynamic young group of performers and composers dedicated to making new chamber music for the 21st century, formed in 2002 at the Yale School of Music.”

Awake is the title of their latest disc (album, really) and also one of the six songs/compositions thereon. Liner notes are lacking on the stylish three-flapped digipak, the short texts for each of the pieces (Change / Judd Greenstein, Velvet Hammer / Sean Friar, Magic With Everyday Objects / Missy Mazzoli, Burst / Mark Dancigers, Waiting in the Rain for Snow / David Crowell, and Awake / Patrick Burke) are not particularly helpful, either, when I first tried to get a grip on what is going on. (The ensemble’s Web site, eventually consulted, helps.)

Each piece is by a different composer, but one hears a surprising unity and consistency of sound. This largely, but not exclusively due to the ensemble's setup of flute, clarinet, electric guitar, double bass, and piano, for which each of the composers has specifically written their piece. Floating melodies on pleasantly repetitive rhythmical patterns and arpeggios feature heavily, piano figures play lulling circles in the back, repetitive flute melodies dominate up front, an electronic harmonic hum acts as general background… as they do, representative for much of the whole album, in Magic With Everyday Objects. The whole thing -- regardless of composer -- sounds like a variously accented mix of Terje Rypdal, Philip Glass, Michael Nyman, Steve Reich, and faint touches of jazz à la Mike Stern.

If that and the clips on the New Amsterdam Recording website sound intriguing… well, I am engrossed for one, and haven’t been able to stop listening, on and off, for two days now.

Hear the NOW Ensemble on Saturday night (May 14, 8 pm), with another group called Victoire, presented by the Library of Congress in a free concert at the Atlas Performing Arts Center (1333 H St. NE).