Bryn Harrison has recently returned from a short residency in New York following the successful premiere of a new work, a form in search of itself, scored for soprano voice, five instrumentalists, and live electronics. The piece was commissioned especially for the core players of Wet Ink ensemble, a highly regarded New York-based new music ensemble now in their 17th concert season. The piece is one of an on-going series that outlines similar approaches to form; that of moving gradually from fleeting, ephemeral moments that seem to constantly elude the listener, to a point of immersion, through which events become subjected to greater and greater degrees of repetition. Unusually for Harrison, the score is presented in mobile form through which the players choose their own circuitous routes through the lines of music provided. The result is a dense, contrapuntal texture in which time seems at once both in motion and yet strangely arrested. Harrison has spoken of this process as being both playful and invigorating, noting that it has led to musical results that always contain an element of surprise.
Another new work, Things have never been as much like they are now ever before will be premiered at this year’s summer course at Darmstadt in August. The piece was commissioned by the Norwegian ensemble Asamisimasa – with whom the composer has built up a close working relationship over the last few years – and works on a similar premise, through which material cycles on continually shorter loops. The materials, however, are quite different here; swells of chords from the five-piece ensemble (including wah-wah guitar, electric bass and organ) are juxtaposed and overlaid like plates of glass. The harmonies are continually revisited but in different guises, providing both points of orientation and disorientation for the listener. The composer presents material that at first seems out of reach, but it gradually comes into focus as the piece unfolds over its 35 minute duration.
Currently, Harrison is working on an ambitious hour-long piano quintet for pianist Philip Thomas and the Bozzini Quartet, part of CeReNeM’s successful URF research bid. The piece will receive its premiere early next year, and will subsequently be recorded for release on the HCR label next year. In the meantime, June has seen the release of two works on CD: Five Miniatures in Three Parts, performed by Ensemble Offspring and receiving the approaching memory, Harrison’s second portrait disc on the another timbre label.