Keyboardist/composer Don Preston, who is probably best known for his work with Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention, is deeply rooted in contemporary classical musicPreston has scored more than twenty feature films and fourteen plays.
Works is a ten track retrospective of Preston's classically influenced works, spanning from 1965 to the present. The disc is a fascinating glance into the uncompromising musical mind of an overlooked American musical icon.
The opening track "Of No Consequence" is a well-crafted, dense work for chamber orchestra. "Found," from 1965, is a mainly improvised piece, scored for piano, flute, bass, percussion and voice. The sparse blending of female voice with fragmented flute passages and heavy-handed piano flourishes is delightfully eerie. "Was Black," commissioned by a performance artist friend of Preston's, is a dark-toned electronic piece containing hints of Krzysztof Penderecki's "Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima."
Preston has been lauded for his innovative involvement with the synthesizer and much of the music found on Works is indeed telling of the composer's electronic leanings. Such an over-reliance on synthetic sound, however, tends to spoil the emotional capacity of pieces like "The Winds of Change" and "Homage to FZ." The former, full of beautifully developed themes, poorly emulates a trio of piano, violin and cello. The latter, a jagged fanfare dedicated to Zappa, is scored for three trumpets, French horn, trombone and tuba, but unfortunately performed by Preston in a studio using samples and automated sounds.
Preston's uncompromising vision is clearest when electronics are blended with live instrumentation ("Primeval #7," "The Bride Stripped Bare" and "Of No Consequence"). Also noteworthy is the frenzied, fittingly brief solo piano piece "Ode to Tinguely."
Personnel: Don Preston: piano, synthesizer; Chamber Orchestra of Invention (1); California EAR Unit (9); Various other personnel.