Linda catlin smith
Apartment House and Bozzini Quartet
Another Stamp at 105X2
Born in the United States and residing in Canada for over a quarter of a century, Linda catlin smith has become a staple on this country’s cultural radar. She was greeted and feted as one of the Canadian women. For example, she is only the second woman to win the Jules Léger Prize for Chamber Music and has a long association with the ArrayMusic ensemble, of which she was artistic director. Several recordings of his music have been released, but last year Dirt road won its critical praise and belated review in the United States, ending up on many reviewers’ “best of the year” lists (including mine). Posted by Another Timbre, Dirt road was just a taste of this label’s commitment to Canadian music. Another stamp recently released a set of five recordings in their Canadian Composers series (another set of five is expected later this year). Catlin Smith figures prominently, with the double disc vagabond serving as volume 1 in the series. Other composers include Martin Arnold, Isiah Ceccarelli, Chlyoko Szlavnics, and Marc Sabat.
Drifter program is executed by two groups of rooms: Apartment House and Bozzini Quartet. The “drift” in question is not the itinerant hitchhiking, but rather the calm tempo routes frequently chosen by Catlin Smith. The piano trio Far from the shore, played here by Philip Thomas, Anton Lukiszevieze and Mira Benjamin, is an example. Slow and smooth music for the trio, often reminiscent of Morton Feldman’s approach (one Catlin Smith recognizes as a distinctive influence on his work) alongside passages of colorful piano chords. The spectrum passes from inexorably repeated constrained sets of pitches, to chromatic counterpoint, to whole washes of sound. The intuitive sensitivity that Catlin Smith claims as his approach in preference to any dogmatic systematization clearly allows him to move on an ever-changing musical terrain, while retaining an organic sense of each piece. How does she deal with this? An interview in the booklet accompanying the ensemble of Canadian composers quotes her as: “Listening. Lots of listening. You could do worse as a songwriter in any style of listening as intently as Catlin Smith does.
Cantelina (2013) for viola and vibraphone, played by Emma Richards and Simon Limbrick, presents another interest of the composer, that of heterogeneous instrumental chords. Here and in the Quintet with piano (2014), another of Catlin Smith’s predilections, exploring a closely related counterpoint in close register positions, is presented. The overlap in Cantilena is quite appealing (it’s a combination that should be explored by more composers and one that I’ll keep in my hip pocket) and it also affects when written roughly in the quintet. The title work is also for a seemingly difficult combination, piano and classical guitar, performed by Philippe thomas and Diego Castro Magazine, but Catlin Smith’s soft touches of coloristic harmony and uneven ostinatos also work wonderfully in this duo setting. My Who Trembled (1999), played by Thomas, Benjamin and Limbrick, has a pulse piano part which is joined by a sustained violin and bowed percussion. An interesting notation device is used: rather than writing down all the notes and rhythms, the composer specifies that the musicians silently read a poem by Rimbaud and use his rhythms of speech to shape the musical work (for example, the percussionist draws his attack points from stressed French syllables).
Bozzini Quartet appears in two string quartets by Catlin Smith. Folkestone (1999) pits a persistent violin line against articulated, syncopated slow chord blocks played by the other three members (these have an almost accordion quality in their spacing). Gradually, other lines emerge from the texture, the cello playing a poignant solo dissonant with the rest of the harmony. The chord passages begin to disperse, bringing the place of activity closer to the sustained sound of the violin. flautando melody. The mid-register lines now break free and the chords move in double time for a brief stretch before giving way to widely spaced and slowly articulated harmonies again. This alternation of patterns includes still other elements to introduce: pizzicatos, duets, flashes of brilliance in harmonic fourths and a bass melody for cello made really heavy by the registers against which it was balanced before. Check-in over 32 minutes, Folkestone is a substantial and utterly captivating composition. Gondola involves quartet members coming in and out in unison and a gentle rocking boat rhythm that Catlin Smith describes as: in the water. “
Evocative images for a truly evocative musical creation. vagabond is an album (a double album moreover) to be savored.