|Trios for Deep Voices CB0030|
Trios Is an emotionally charged music of extreme virtuosity and extreme beautyfrom passages laden with devilishly difficult harmonics and bowing techniques played at wild, breakneck tempos to pensive stretches of lyric, vocal-like melody to the myriad musical riches suspended between these extremes. It is performed by three double bass virtuososChristopher Roberts, Mark Morton, and James Bergmanwho make many of its most difficult passages sound easy.
Some of this music came to Roberts in his dreams while living in New Guinea. The third movement, Kon Burunemo ("trembling leaf") was written in memory of the extraordinary bassist and teacher David Walter, with whom Roberts studied.
The composer writes about Trios for Deep Voices:
Christopher Roberts is a composer and double bassist who is as comfortable within the Western classical, jazz, and folk traditions as he is within a number of non-Western Pacific Rim musical traditions and as an idiosyncratic solo improviser on the bass and other instruments. He grew up in Southern California (where his first bass was the "prop" bass, with bullet holes, from the Billy Wilder movie Some Like It Hot), but has spent much of his life since the early 1980s living overseas. Only fairly recently did he return to the United States, where he currently teaches music at Whatcom Community College in Bellingham, Washington. Roberts studied composition with Vincent Persichetti and double bass with David Walter at Juilliard, where he earned masters and doctoral degrees in both subjects. Following the focus and intensity of the conservatory environment, he shouldered his bass and went to live alone in Papua New Guinea, on a quest to understand natural prosody in music. This was followed by a Fulbright to Taiwan to study the Chinese classical qin (an ancient zither-like instrument), in a quest to understand idiomatic string composition in a culture and a way of training different from his own. Roberts has become a master of the qin (and Cold Blue has released a CD of his qin solos, Last Cicada Singing). He taught composition, theory, and double bass for a number of years at Soochow University in Taipei. Roberts was the subject of the award-winning documentary Songs of a Distant Jungle.
|The other performers
Mark Morton is a double bass recitalist and concerto performer who has been a featured soloist on many radio broadcasts, including NPR's Performance Today, WGBH in Boston, and WQXR in New York. He is principal bass of the Columbus (Ohio) Symphony Orchestra. Morton earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Juilliard, where he was only the second bassist to receive that institution's Doctor of Musical Arts degree. He is the first-prize winner of the International Society of Bassists Solo Competition, and was the assistant double bass instructor to Gary Karr at The Hartt School of Music. Morton is Artistic Director of the American School of Double Bass and currently Assistant Professor of Double Bass at Texas Tech Univ. He has authored the "Dr. Morton" series of books on bass playing and articles for Strings, Bass World, and American String Teacher magazines and the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. He recorded two critically acclaimed albums of standard bass repertoire, Thresholds and Russian Rendezvous and, with Gary Karr, a CD of Paul Ramsier's bass music.
"Trios for Deep Voices is thoughtful music, beautifully worked out, and very absorbing to listen to. Its wonderfully individual, both in its sound and its construction. Clear some space in your life, both literally and figuratively, and give it a listen." Greg Sandow
"Listeners acquainted with the music of Papua may detect odd echoes of its drumbeats and fragile melodies, or hear its flute and vocal hockets reflected in ostinato phrases that recur within Trios for Deep Voices. These five pieces have evocative titles such as Hornbills, alluding to those large birds, or Around the Heath, suggesting communal life and ritual. But Roberts didn't go to Papua New Guinea simply to eavesdrop: his motivation, he says, was 'to study the natural prosody of music.' It was an experiment in hearing the dynamics of an unfamiliar environment, the rhythm and intonation of a place and a people. This music has none of the kitsch of cheap ethno-musicological fantasy or neo-primitive indulgenceit's an elegantly reverberant, harmonically rich and gracefully delineated composition for resonant strings. Rather than relaying tourist impressions, he maps changes in his own musical sensibility brought about by Papuan experiences. And he doesnt conceal what endures from his earlier training, with his evident love of the double bass at its heart." Julian Cowley, The Wire
"Quite unusual and quite remarkable." Richard Friedman, Producer/Host, KALW's Music from Other Minds
"Sometimes to find your own musicthe music you feel compelled to makeyou must escape to another world. 'In 1981,' writes composer Christopher Roberts, 'I ran off to the jungles of Papua New Guinea to study the natural prosody of music. I lived with the people of the Star Mountains and introduced them to my double bass, while they introduced me to their songs.'
"American composer and bassist Christopher Roberts has spent much of his career outside the United States, studying either non-Western musical traditions (he is a master of the qin, a Chinese stringed instrument) or "the natural prosody of music." In the latter case, he spent time in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, living in villages and absorbing indigenous traditions as well as the profligate natural sounds that surrounded him. The five pieces collected here, for three string basses, are reflections of his experience in the jungle. Roberts's most obvious musical influence is the throbbing pulse of early minimalism, but his music is so rich in its textures and gestures and harmonies that his voice is distinctive. As a bassist, he understands how to draw such a prodigious variety of sounds from the instrument that the lack of higher voices never seems like an impediment. Each piece has its unique character; some are almost traditionally contrapuntal, but a primal energy, with its own mysterious, visceral logic, animates most of Roberts's work. Two of the most immediately engaging pieces, Hornbills and Flying, were inspired by the sounds of the large birds in flight. The first is fast and the second slow, but they both convincingly convey a sense of weightless soaring, which is quite an achievement using only instruments as weighty as basses. The composer, Mark Morton, and James Bergman deliver virtuosic performances that capture the diverse moods of the music, from delicate to frighteningly feral. The sound is clean, with a nicely resonant ambience that lets the listener feel the deep vibrations the basses produce." Stephen Eddins, All-Music Guide
"Roberts has a strong individual voice. If he repeats the idiosyncrasies of those pieces in the future hell be a composer to reckon with." Richard Grooms, The Improvisor
"The CD note provided by the composer tells you everything you need to know:
"All too often, the double bass is an instrument that is, in the words of our previous president, "misunderestimated." It has a much wider range than is frequently employed in ensemble contexts. Effects too are underutilized in mainstream concert music; harmonics, in particular, can sound quite evocative on double bass. An object lesson in this regard is Christopher Roberts new recording on Cold Blue, Trios for Deep Voices, which includes not one, but three bassists Trios is inspired in part by Roberts 1981 trip to New Guinea. The sound of the countrys wildlife and music-making with natives in the Star Mountains both subtly infiltrate the proceedings; 'birdcalls' and percussive effects can be heard throughout the CD. Roberts is also influenced by minimalism to a certain degree, creating great swaths of overlapping repetitions and drone-based passages. For instance, on the albums opener, 'Hornbills,' the big, thick chords sounded by the three bassits are truly thrilling to hear. Trios contains a haunting lyricism as well. This is particularly evident in the final movement, 'Mesto,' which contains soaring solo melodies and supple pantonal harmonies deployed in frequent dynamic swells. By the end of the CD, any negative preconceptions the listener may have had about the double bass will doubtless be dispelled." Christian Carey, Sequenza21
"This CD is especially refreshing because it has been released at a time when contemporary composers are tempted to jump on the trendy bandwagon of world music and are tempted to paint their music with the superficial colors of expedient globalism. Robertson on the other hand has adeptly avoided the trap of exoticism.
"In an interesting variation on the chamber music sound, three double basses are bowed, plucked, struck, and played in other interesting ways to good effect, bringing out power and emotions one normally doesn't associate with the instrument. Roberts' compositions also run the emotional gamut, dwelling more in a sort-of cinematic role with experimental upheavals and introspective passages; they bear a variety of trace influences from jazz to eastern flavored world music to dissonant soundtrack fare, rather than the typical (and strictly) classical that might most often be associated with this type of instrumental settingalthough that is here also in measured amounts. The five mid-length pieces were born of Roberts' many years living and studying music in the jungles of Papua New Guinea . . . One can almost hear the trees, birds, insects, streams and volcanoes between all these bass strings and the resonances and overtones they produce. The ten-page CD insert features many photographs Roberts took during his stay in Papua, and go far to illustrate the inspiration for the compositions."Peter Thelan, Exposé
"A beautiful CD theres nary a moment of dullness in the whole album. outright magnificent." Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes (Italy)
"All to often, the double bass is an instrument that is, in the words of our previous president, 'misunderestimated.' While it is frequently used to secure the low end of an orchestra, playing sustained tones and ostinati, the bass also has extensive capacities as a solo instrument. It has a much wider range than is frequently employed in ensemble contexts. Effects too are underutilized in mainstream concert music; harmonics, in particular, can sound quite evocative on bass. An object lesson in this regard is Christopher Roberts' new recording Trios for Deep Voices, which includes not one but three bassists: Roberts, Mark Morton, and James Bergman. Trios is inspired in part by Roberts' 1981 trip to New Guinea. The sound of the country's wildlife and memories of music-making with natives in the Star Mountains subtly infiltrate the proceedings; percussive effects and birdcall imitations can be heard throughout the CD. Roberts is also influenced by minimalism, creating great swaths of overlapping repetitions and drones: the results can be thrilling, such as the big, thick chords sounded by the three bassists on the album's opener, Hornbills. Most important, though, is the haunting lyricism evident throughout the disc: it's particularly effective in the final movement, Mesto, where frequent dynamic swells give an extra lift to soaring solo melodies and supple pantonal harmonies." Christian Carey, Signal to Noise