Monday, January 3, 2011

Neue Bilder: The Music of James Harley

James Harley composes in the now somewhat venerable tradition of classic modernism. That is not to say that he is some clone of Webern or Boulez. It's only to say that the periodicity and flow of his music has little of the droning insistency of minimalism or the lavishly applied impasto of the neo-romantics. It means he pays careful attention to sound color; he constructs complex, many-voiced aural tapestries that create a sonorous musical whole out of the comings and goings of the individual instrumental voices. The fact that he does this is not exceptional. It is the quality of the invention, however, along with the attention to the part writing that puts him in a good place as, to my mind, one of the most important Canadian composers active today.

The album Neue Bilder (Centrediscs 15010) gives you a good sampling of his music, well performed by the New Music Concerts aggregation under Robert Aitken. Two larger chamber ensemble works form the origin and terminus points for a concert that also includes three more intimate chamber works: for solo flute (very imaginatively performed by Aitkin); flute, cello and piano; and bass flute and percussion, respectively.

This is a winner. Recommended.

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