|Numinous The Music of Joseph C. Phillips Jr.|
The Numinosum Blog
Monday night September 12th, I attended the CD release concert of cellist and vocalist Jody Redhage's newly released recording of minutiae and memory (New Amsterdam Records NWAM031) at DROM on Avenue A on the Lower East Side. Jody is a "cello emeritus" with Numinous, having been in a number of performances over the years as well as on the Vipassana recording. Her emeritus status comes as she has been increasingly in demand and out of town, for example, playing with Grammy-winner Esperanza Spalding on her world tour. But I digress, so seeing how back in 2008 I was at Jody's All Summer in a Day CD release concert at the old Galapagos Art Space, I believe (which happened to be one of the first release and public shows of New Amsterdam Records), it seemed fitting to hear how Jody's stirring mix of cello and voice has developed since that earlier recording.
The night opened, not with Jody, but with Corey Dargel and Cornelius Dufallo and a set of art pop songs for voice and violin. If you don't know Corey's music, you probably should check out this feature in the New York Times earlier this year. Going in, I was a bit skeptical about how intriguing voice and violin really could be. But with Cornelius doing a great job of electronically looping various motifs/riffs and then subsequently playing other figures over them/with them, as well as Corey's always compelling and droll words and vocal delivery, I felt the instrumentation complemented the compositions wonderfully and provided a smooth transition into Jody's solo set.
Just after intermission, as Jody was setting up music on her stand, the house music died out and clearly something quite different started to play over the PA. The audience did get quieter, although I think everyone was trying to figure what was going on. Some were kind of listening and others continued with their intermission activities. Once the piece was over however, Jody mentioned that it was Anna Clyne's "paint box" from of minutiae and memory that was played as a sort of prequel to the live performance. Jody proceeded to perform all the compositions from the new recording although not in album order. All of the pieces fit in a more somber, contemplative emotional zone and I could clearly see how some kind of visuals or lighting design coupled with the compositions would make for an even more powerful performance experience (maybe something similar to Maya Beiser's World to Come). As it was, I enjoyed most of the music and Jody's playing was passionate, heartfelt, and well-done. As she mentioned at the end of the show, all of the pieces on the new album spoke to her strongly and that love came through beautifully in her playing and singing.
Some compositions featured Jody's signature (singing while playing the cello) and a few pieces were just for cello alone or cello with electronic backing tracks. At the halfway mark of the concert I thought my favorite piece was going to end up being Missy Mazzoli's "A Thousand Tongues." I'm a fan of Missy's work (her group Victorie's album Cathedral City is one I get continual listening pleasure from) and love how she subtly mixes electronic textures in acoustic environments in many of her compositions and this piece was no exception. This quote from composer Sarah Kirkland Snider sums up what I like about Missy's work in general and "A Thousand Tongues" specifically:
[Missy's music] inhabits a weird emotional space that's dark and anxious…. there are so many odd notes and clashing chords…. there isn't a lot of traditional goal-directed motion, but rather this feeling of a pot forever on the boil — yet you're left feeling like you've gone somewhere.
While I enjoyed "A Thousand Tongues" thoroughly, it was a later piece, "Static Line" by Wil Smith, that ended as my favorite of the night. From an opening with drone-like sliding figures that evoked a similar sonic world of Michael Harrison's just intonation drones to a later motivic sensibility that vaguely reminded me of South Indian classical vocal writing to a beautifully elegiac melodic build-up toward the end, I was completely engaged in "Static Line" and look forward to exploring it, as well as all the other compositions, in more depth on the actual recording.
(photo credit: Joseph C. Phillips Jr.)
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