Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Visual Music - Labyrinth by Edwin Roxburgh

There's a bunch of pianist-composers, guitarist-composers and conductor-composers, but I can't say I've heard of too many oboist-composers (except for Heinz Holliger, of course).  A student of Herbert Howells, Edwin Roxburgh (b. 1937) is one of those blessed contemporary composers who maintains an impressionistic sense of enchantment in his work.  There's some classic titles in there like Stardrift, Le Miroirs de Miró and Moonscape, the latter of which actually has two separate performances on YouTube - that's quite a compliment for a living composer, as most of them can only muster one for any given piece, if any at all.

Perhaps Moonscape's relative popularity is its flatter learning curve than some other contemporary piano works, such as Roxburgh's Labyrinth.  It was written to close out a performance of the first book of Debussy's Preludes on a piano with a nine-note bass extension to a super-low C, and though I haven't heard the piece played on that kind of piano I can guess it'd be swell, considering those notes are too low for people to recognize their pitches.  The recording I heard was pretty good despite the lack of low notes, and the piece itself is crashing, horrific and really, really cool.  It's the kind of ultra-dramatic color showcase that could inspire young people to the piano.  Roxburgh's publisher, United Music Publishers (UMP), is largely minimalist with their covers, so I was delightfully surprised when I saw this:

(Sorry about the stickers)

This is what happens when you make the cover artist write the title with a crayon taped to the end of a six-foot pole while blindfolded.  It's entirely appropriate, and evokes that feeling when you're in a labyrinth and you come across a foreboding warning written by somebody once lost in its walls, taken by the Minotaur*.  The cramped framing and small print below do wonders to make the word and the concept overpower the viewer, like it'll burst from the paper at any second and consume them.  There's also a distinct lack of curves, inferring a name more forced than graced.  I don't know who the artist is on this one (a sad pattern that will emerge as this series continues), but whoever he is I salute him as a scholar of the creepy.  If you want to hear the main show, here's a CD with it:



*Just like any other Wednesday.

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