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June 21, 1985 - Image 8

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1985-06-21

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Friday, June 21, 1985

The Michigan Daily

Page 8


Mark Isham - Film Music
(Windham Hill)
Within the ranks of the ever
burgeoning, increasingly hard to.
define school of New Age Music, Mark'
Isham stands as one of the more ex-
ceptional figures, a composer whose
works have considerably more depth
and liveliness than the typically one-
dimensional, merely decorous music
endemic to the field. Isham's delicate,
pale, often moody arrangements of
synthesizers and horns is rooted in
traditional atmospheric vein, but is
more thoughtful and emotive, reflec-
ting a studious approach that draws
upon elements of jazz, classical, and
modernist thought.
Film Music, Isham's second album
for the Windham Hill label, culls
selections from three film scores he's
written over the last two years; Mrs.
Soffel, The Times of Harvey Milk, and
Never Cry Wolf. It is an exceptioned
work, both as a significant con- Isham
tribution to the increasingly anemic
school of film composition - where - makes film scores meaningful
the heavyweights like Jerry Gold-
smith and Ennio Morricone have all ambient-oriented effort, Film Music
gone flabby - and as a work of features bolder, more adventurous
notable importance in contemporary music. Isham sketches landscapes
American music. and character portraits that invite
Unlike Isham's Vapor Drawings contemplation and repeated listening.
album, a refreshing but poppish The opening selection, a suite from

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Mrs. Soffel has an immediately
disconcerting, haunting beauty. A
fragile, distinctly feminine melody on
piano wanders up from a background
dirge of distant industrial noise, walt-
zing trepidatiously, seemingly con-
fused, as a faint pennywhistle calls
out a strangled cry of despair. The
arrangement has a carefully
restrained suggestion of roman-
ticism, subtly tinted in faded shades
of Victorian sentimentality that
reflects no small amount of inspired
sensitivity on Isham's part.
The second piece, a short selection
from the documentary The Times of
Harvey Milk is also a mood piece,
developed in a similar vein as the
previous piece but with a more
modern setting. It opens with a bright,
almost child-like rhythmic pattern on
synthesizers. It pauses, to darken in
temperament, and turns into melan-
cholic, jazz-styled lament, eventually
ending with a sublimely bittersweet
arrangement of brass and similarly
programmed synth crying a majestic,
distinctly Coplandesque fanfare.
There is still an airy, ethereal
quality to the pieces, and Isham, like
most of his compatriots, seems more
interested in the textural qualities of
the synthesizer than anything else. He
uses it to paint broad, flat strokes of
gray sound, softly shaded with almost
imperceptible interweaving of muted
horns and strings.
But unlike someone like Eno or
Fripp, whose work this is sometimes
vaguely reminiscent of, Isham is
more attuned to the emotional
possibilities of his music than to cool
tonalities. He is able to drop in
suggestively romantic phrases
without ever slipping into Vangelisian
indulgence. Isham sticks to carefully
trim melodies, like minimalism
without the redundancy. And though
the pieces sometimes seem too
meager, too sparsely rendered, the in-
telligent restraint is still a welcome,
all-too-rare attitude that should be en-
The entire B side of the album is
dedicated to music from Carroll
Ballard's Never Cry Wolf, ap-
propriately as it is the most ambitious
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Pianist~Augustin Aiievas amazed a Rackham Auditorium audience on
Wednesday night with a virtuosic exhibition of speed. Although at times
inappropriately hurrying the pieces along, Anievas demonstrated
masterful interpretation.
High-speed virtuosity
By Neil Galanter The performance was brilliant,
with a climax building in all the
uesday evening I had a musical movements. It was a smooth
sandwich! I'm not kidding reading except for a few abrupt sec-
This was no skimpy lettuce and tion changes in the Adagio
tomato sandwich either. It was a movement. The difficult thirds inthe
thick juicy corned beef on rye or reoccurring theme of the first
maybe a ham and cheese, but it was movement are always refreshing to
rich and fulfilling. hear, especially when played as
No, this is not a restaurant review, crisply as Aneivas did.
it is a review of pianist Agustin The other book of Chopin Etudes,
Anievas' recital at Rackhar Opus 25, played after intermission,
Auditorium which consisted of contains some fiendishly difficult
Beethoven's Sonta Opus 2 No. 3, pieces as well as some poetic, lighter
layered with Chopin Etudes Opuses ones. The first is based on arpeggios
10 and 25. with an underlying melody. The ar-
After his opening arpeggios in the peggios likewise seemed too quick,
first Etude, one became im- however, that did not detract from
mediately aware of Anievas' the interpretation.
thrilling technical capabilities, and In the rest of the program,
his intentful, driving musicianship, melodic contrasts and musical lines
Anievas' Chopin Etudes were were shaded with enjoyable nuan-
powerful and pleasingly brisk. He ces. Anievas provided solid rich bass
defined sections in each of the and a bright treble, and although his
Etudes well, and each piece spoke thirds in the Etude were not ab-
for itself. Anievas' speed seemed a solutely note perfect, it was still
little excessive at times; possibly he silky smooth playing.
was using quickness to make a few After exclaiming, "I thought I had
points. It wasn't necessary - hispayes enough notes tonight,"
musical interpretations were in- Anievas turned out Schubert 's lmt-
sightful regardless. promptu Opus 90 No. 4 for an encore.
Restraining the pace would have The arpeggios, which are the most
helped somewhat in the reading of prominent in this piece, were also
the Beethoven Sonata Opus 2 no. 3. virtuosically rapid - out of place for
Anievas seemed to be transferring the Schubert. This piece is more a
all of his technical prowess into the poetic and introspective one than as
Beethoven, which is no doubt dif- opportunity for virtuosic exhibition.
ficult - there is, however, less sheer If Anievas would have slowed down,
technique and more deep thought the subtle moods could have been
in a piece like this, thus aleviating soaked up a bit more, but don't
the need for high-speed technicalti it wasn't musically satisfying.







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