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Christopher Cerrone: The Pieces That Fall to Earth

Featuring Wild Up, Christopher Rountree, Lindsay Kesselman and Theo Bleckmann. Album release date July 26th on New Amsterdam Records.

Christopher Cerrone writes music for human voices which wander and persist through landscapes of cold instrumental sounds. Throughout his vocal works, musical metaphors reinforce poetries of loneliness, alienation, and nostalgia.

To achieve this, Cerrone reorders the typical hierarchy of the classical orchestra. Percussive, quickly-decaying sounds now occupy the core: a pointillistic battery of piano, harp, vibraphone, marimba, and glockenspiel. Stringed instruments are demoted from their central melodic role and leeched of their typical colors, instead concentrating on drones, often using harmonics or alternate bowing techniques. Wind instruments, too, often contribute only un-pitched air, their affect ranging from a subtle atmospheric pressure change to a chuffing engine driving an unstoppable rhythmic machine.

"This album represents the culmination of more than three years of work. It is a collaboration between me and many friends: Christopher Rountree, Wild Up, Nick Tipp, Lindsay Kesselman, Theo Bleckmann, and the many singers featured on The Branch Will Not Break. Each person brought something unique and indelible to this album; what you are hearing goes so far beyond what’s on the pages of my scores. In addition to the above collaborators, the authors Kay Ryan, Bill Knott, and James Wright profoundly inspired the music that I wrote. I feel that by setting their disparate languages, I have composed three works that are kindred spirits, but whose differences are as profound as their similarities."

~Chris Cerrone

In the three pieces on this album, the singer’s part is brought into sharp relief against this background. In contrast to his music for instruments, Cerrone’s writing for the voice could not be more withthe grain. The priority here is emotional directness, an urgent—at times, desperate—need to communicate. But this is not the choked, fragmented desperation of so much modernist dramaturgy. Though the severe, crystalline soundscapes of Feldman and Berio are a clear point of reference throughout, it’s the vocal centricity and generosity of bel canto opera that comes through most strongly. Cerrone’s soloists sing in full sentences, set in strophic, melodically memorable lines. He selects poetry not to deconstruct, but to heighten and concentrate it.

~Excerpt from program notes by Timo Andres

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