Joe Cutler: Boogie Nights

 

Released May 18, 2014
Re-released June 28, 2019

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This disc, Boogie Nights, consists of six works for a variety of mediums, all written between 2007 and 2013. What binds these six works together is an underlying post-minimalist approach. However, what is unique about Cutler’s approach is the manner in which fixed and transformative ostinati become the bedrock for musical journeys that tease with their musical and cultural references. In comparison to his earlier disc Bartlebooth, these works see an approach where elements of the vernacular and ‘downtown’ are more overt, in which irony is created through the dialogue between musics the conventionally should not be brought into contact.

The title track, Boogie Nights, commissioned by Orgelpark in Amsterdam and written for Orkest de Ereprijs in combination with a 1920’s mechanical dancehall organ called the “Busy Drone”, plays on the pun of giant organs, making a connection with the 1990s Hollywood film of the same name. Entering this world are a dizzying array of musics ranging from hard-driven post-minimalist rock, 70s funk, elements of Butch Morris-style conduction, twisted waltzes and music that would not be a-miss on pre-school television. The result is a kaleidoscopic journey that teases the conventions of what is acceptable in a high-brow concert hall.

Slippery Music, commissioned by the Schubert Ensemble, brings country-and-western into the hallowed medium of the piano quintet, with the result perhaps resembling the Trout Quintet on illegal drugs. The slipperiness of the piece refers to the “untrustworthiness” of the choice of material, as well as to the frequent use of instrumental textures which create a sense of walking on a highly unstable surface through the exploitation of sliding glissandi and flickering harmonics.

The three movements of Comfortable Music resemble three carefully juxtaposed “objects trouvés”. Yet despite their initially apparent differences, each movement shares a common engagement with a heightened physicality of sound, captured beautifully on this recording in the playing of Darragh Morgan and Mary Dullea. Within this triptych, the Baroque rubs shoulders with American roadhouse music, finally giving way to the far from comfortable finale which hints at the existentialism of contemporary Polish composers such as Tomasz Sikorski.

Extended Play, commissioned by Decibel, develops Cutler’s interest in exploring the boundary regions between post-minimalism, rock and jazz, with each of these genres coming to the fore at various points on this journey. But this is not a polystylism based on elements that do not belong, rather a naturally transformative process of materials that have the ability to re-invent themselves.

Music for Parakeets, commissioned by cellist Lionel Handy and pianist Nigel Clayton, is the most focussed example perhaps of how Cutler uses ostinati as a thread to lead the listener through a journey of carefully placed zones, in this case moving from the tentative, to the lyrical, to the pastoral and finally to the brutal.

Cutler’s love of Polish Goralski folk music is apparent in Folk Music. Initially deconstructed, the folk material gradually re-assembles itself, finally coming to the fore in the widely exuberant closing section.

text by Paul Jackson

 

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