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Apartment House: Joseph Kudirka: Beauty and Industry

John Eyles By

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Joseph Kudirka is a Michigan-born composer who studied at Northwestern University—where he met Michael Pisaro who was teaching there at the time—before following Pisaro to California Institute of the Arts, and then crossing the Atlantic to study for his PhD at Huddersfield University. Prior to composing, Kudirka's own musical history was as a bassist in local youth orchestras and bands. This album consists of recordings of eight Kudirka compositions dating from the years 2005 to 2011. They are exquisitely played by the ensemble Apartment House and were mainly recorded in April 2015, with one dating from June 2012.

While only eight compositions are played, the album consists of fourteen tracks because four of the compositions are played only once, two others appear in two versions and two others in three versions. Very helpfully, Another Timbre has posted online copies of Kudirka's scores for the eight pieces. In conjunction with the recorded versions, they make fascinating reading. They vary from the "text score" (a term Kudirka says he dislikes) of "Tender," which seems to be a dictionary definition of the title word, through to the completely notated "21st Century Music" or "Dulcimer." But whatever the format, the overwhelming impression they create is of simplicity, with choice and control being given to the musicians.

The inclusion of those multiple versions was inspired; despite their differences, subtle or otherwise, they help build up a Rashomon-style view that is more detailed and rich than any one version alone could supply. So, although its score gives no directions to players, the two versions of "Tender," recorded on the same day, by the same six players, end up being remarkably similar in mood and duration—fifty-three and forty-seven seconds, respectively. (Maybe that was the result of the musicians having discussions between the two recordings, rather than telepathy on their part?) In contrast, "Wyoming Snow," which is notated across thirty-seven stave lines, is given two very different readings by two different groups of players, the one from 2012 lasting eight-and-a-half minutes, the other from 2015 just topping six minutes. Despite their different lengths and instrumentations, those two versions generate very similar moods, evolving slowly with sustained tones which build rich soundscapes that are soothing and tranquil, without any shocks, surprises or unnecessary embellishment.

Across its fourteen tracks, lasting some fifty-three minutes altogether, the album builds up a consistent picture of Kudirka's music that seems at odds with the diverse formats of his scores. His music is serious, simple and spacious. As so often in recent years, Another Timbre has shone the spotlight on a remarkable composer, one who will be worthy of attention for decades.


Track Listing: Tender; Beauty and Industry; Two Sections; 21st Century Music; Wyoming Snow; An Orchestral Fantasy; Beauty and Industry second version; Grey; Two Sections second version; Dulcimer; Two Sections third version; Beauty and Industry third version; Tender second version; Wyoming Snow second version.

Personnel: Bridget Carey: viola (1-9, 11-13); Simon Limbrick: percussion (1-3, 5-13; Anton Lukoszevieze: cello (1-9, 11-14); Nancy Ruffer: flutes (1-3, 5-13); Philip Thomas: piano (1-3, 5-9, 11-14); Kerry Yong: celesta (1-3,5-13), chamber organ (1-9, 11-13); Angharad Davies: violin (14); Phil Durrant: electronics (14); Jürg Frey: clarinet (14); Rado Malfatti: trombone (14); Lee Patterson: amplified processes (14).

Title: Joseph Kudirka: Beauty and Industry | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Another Timbre

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