Sunday, July 29, 2012

Super-duper Independent Artist Feature 2

Composer, Steven Ricks
CD: Mild Violence

I'm excited to write the second installment of the "Super-duper Independent Artist" feature I recently added to my monthly e-letters. In August 2012 I would like to present composer, Steven Ricks. If you read the first feature of this kind you may notice that I featured the composer, Neil Thornock, from Brigham Young University, and Steven Ricks also happens to be from BYU.

I met Steve on a trip for which I was performing some of Neil's music. Steve actually conducted the performance of Steve Mackey's "Micro-Concerto" I did with the BYU New Music Ensemble. He is an excellent guy, enthusiastic through and through about new projects, a modern composer with a unique and resonating voice, and a mover and shaker. His latest CD is Mild Violence; a mixture of contemporary chamber and solo pieces with electronics. After releasing my second album, "Souvenirs", with an alternation of solo tracks and chamber tracks, I am tending to be drawn to CD's that cover vast territories and varieties of repertoire, especially in contemporary music, and Steve's does just that.

I was drawn mainly to the title track, "Mild Violence", a Pierrot quintet plus percussion piece, that starts in a curious way much akin to tinkering with the percussion set-up, and then goes on to evoke fascinating punches of composers, Lee Hyla and Steve Mackey, but only to be smashed out by none other than Steven Ricks. The title refers to the clinical label for videogames alerting about "cartoonish malice", but also the piece can tend to delve more into the realistic malice of humanity.

As most things seem to fall, in a serendipitous way, once I had settled on a topic for my dissertation; "Pierrot Plus Percussion; A Trend Shaping Contemporary Chamber Music, Composition, and Percussion Repertoire", all roads led back to Steve and Mild Violence. And another coincidence being that he conducted my last performance of Mackey's "Micro-Concerto" in October 2011, which is also a Pierrot plus percussion piece.

"American Dreamscape" is the third track for alto saxophone, piano, percussion, contrabass, and electronics, and opens suggesting "uncontrolled kinetic motion--a runaway train, or perhaps a runaway tape reel, spinning faster and faster until it melts onto the tape head." A cosmic exploration of texture at times, and the chaos of a city club strip at others. Track 5, "Beyond the Zero" for solo violin and electronics got my blood boiling the a good way. A very suggestive piece for real violence in war and the world, the interaction between the acoustic and electronic players creates a wonderfully crafted spectral malaise.

I highly recommend checking out this disc for new music connoisseurs, percussionists, and everyone interested in the path of contemporary music.

Visit Steve's awesome webpage here!

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