Ritual Fragments

I’ve been enjoying a disc from a few years back featuring music of Ross Bauer and entitled Ritual Fragments. Released on Albany in 2007, the album includes five pieces from the 1990s, both vocal and instrumental. Performances are exemplary, with top soloists and ensembles: singers Christine Schadeberg and Susan Narucki, the New York New Music Ensemble, the Triple Helix (the Boston-based piano trio) and Ross’s own Empyrian Ensemble, in residence at UC Davis, where he teaches. Ross works in a post-tonal language, and the musical surface can shift rapidly, even kaleidoscopically – either via juxtaposition, or through magical transmutations smoothly shifting from one instrument to the next. But, as David Rakowski comments in his booklet notes, “there’s always a long line unfolding underneath”. I was struck by how Ross integrates motoric and non-pulsed rhythms, and admired the care with which he paces the rate of harmonic change.  The vocal pieces both set texts by indigenous peoples – Eskimos and Native Americans. Ross’s command of a wide range of mood and color lets him find apt frameworks for these varied and evocative texts. I hope more music of Ross Bauer – perhaps including some more recent pieces – finds its way to disc soon.

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