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Lewis Nielson , performed by JACK Quartet*, red fish blue fish*, Steven SchickAXIS

Lewis Nielson - AXIS album cover
Label:Mode – mode 283
Format:
CD, Album
Country:US
Released:
Genre:Classical
Style:

Tracklist

1Le Journal du Corps
EnsembleThe JACK Quartet
23:43
2Tocsin
ConductorSteven Schick
EnsembleRed Fish Blue Fish
21:17
3Axis (Sandman)
CelloEmily DuFour*
ConductorNicholas DeMaison
EnsembleThe JACK Quartet
PercussionSteven Schick
14:22
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Credits

Notes

AXIS

Le Journal du Corps (2010) 23:43
for string quartet
The JACK Quartet

Tocsin (2009) 21:17
for six percussionists
red fish blue fish
Steven Schick, conductor

Axis (Sandman) (2005) 14:22
for solo percussion and string quintet
Steven Schick, percussion
The JACK Quartet
Emily DuFour, cello
Nicholas DeMaison, conductor

The music of American composer Lewis Nielson can be associated with European composers like Helmut Lachenmann or Salvatore Sciarrino, while forging a distinctive approach to form that is at once lyrical, sensitive, and somehow picturesque. But Nielson is not the typical born and bred academic composer. For a time, he played guitar in garage rock and blues bands, and spent a fair amount of time adrift in spells of youthful resistance.

Nielson, a former Professor of Composition at Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, is highly regarded by his colleagues and students. This is proven by the stellar performers here, including Steven Schick and the JACK Quartet.

Axis, for solo percussion and string quintet, is a nearly constant swirl of sound, pixilated into discrete gestures.

Tocsin is for six percussionists. The arresting synchronicity heard at the opening (and several times again over the course of the work) is intended to index the sound of a crowd at the verge of popular revolution. The crowd, as we can hear, repeatedly takes shape only to collapse and cool off into contrapuntal pattering; again gathering their strength to reassemble only to inevitably collapse back into idle
murmurings.

Le Journal du corps for string quartet, begins with minutes of collaged schizophrenia followed by striking moments of harmonic repose and the elegant stillness of non-vibrato chords. Nielson’s striking decision has the string players sing just four minutes before the ending; amateur voices from the professional string quartet. The lyrics are from a play by the Negritude poet, Aimé Césaire, and reference what Nielson describes as “the destructive power of corporate oligarchy in an increasingly rapacious capitalist environment.” Césaire’s text, produced here, provides an uncanny militancy to the Journal’s voices, as exposed indices of un-alienated labor, bearing the quartet’s secret message.

All works are composer supervised first recordings.

Liner notes by Michael Gallope

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