Here I sit with an album by a composer with whom I have no familiarity. Fortunately Eric Moe has a delightfully tenacious public relations department (at least with this particular record label) whose prompts did finally get me listening. OMG, it says “electroacoustic”. That could be really bad or obtuse. Well, I did promise to review it so here goes.
Eric Moe (1954- ) is a composer with a very well organized web page. A quick glance at that web page informs that this is the 12th or so disc from a man who boasts what looks like a list of over 100 compositions. Moe is also a performer and participates on this disc. This graduate of Princeton (A.B., Music) and Berkeley (M.A. and Ph.D., music) teaches at the University of Pittsburgh and is also an active performer of both his and others’ music.
This discs contains 6 composition for solo instrument (mostly with) electronics. Now that combination has given this writer pause because the genre given the name “electroacoustic” can be a mixed bag. Sometimes these works can be ponderous or obtuse with meanings obvious to the composer and, hopefully, the performer.
However your reviewer’s neurotic fears were apparently unfounded as the tracks played some truly wonderful compositions. Each track features a different instrument. The instruments, in order, include a drum set played by Paul Vaillancourt, a viola played by Ellen Meyer, a solo 19tet keyboard played by Eric Moe, an unbelievably virtuosic pipa played by Yihan Chen, solo piano played by Eric Moe, and flute played by Lindsey Goodman.
Suffice it to say that all the soloists here come with a high level of virtuosity as well as the ability to interact meaningfully with the electronics. Far from being a nightmare of impenetrable experimental music this is rather a very entertaining set of pieces which tend to avoid the worst cliches of this genre.
Rather than attempting to describe each of these pieces (a task which would likely be more painful to read than write) it is best to simply provide assurances that the combination of this talented composer combined with the more than capable soloists provides a stimulating and interesting listening experience. These are wonderful performers with great material.
The listener will want to hear each track more than once to get a good idea of what the composer is doing but, fear not, this album is much more adventure than ordeal. It shows a composer at the height of his powers producing art which stimulates the senses and provides an emotional experience. While there is clearly intellect behind the creation and performance of these works they tend to speak rather directly to the listener providing a stimulating entertainment that leaves the listener with a shred of hope that classical, even modern classical is far from dead.
Kudos to professor Moe and his collaborators and a nod of thanks to the tenacious publicity folks who would not let this release go quietly into the good night. You shouldn’t either.