Kitty Brazelton

Chamber Music for the Inner Ear

Kitty Brazelton, voice; Manhattan Brass Quintet; California EAR Unit; other artists
(CRI Emergency Music, CD 889)

As the 20th century's explosive barrage of musical dogmas and stylistic conflicts recede into memory, there aren't many isms that haven't already been done to death. What happens next? Composer-performer Kitty Brazelton offers a handful of striking possibilities with Chamber Music for the Inner Ear, a new disc from CRI's Emergency Music imprint.

Brazelton is a totalist composer, part of a generation that believes that there's more than one way to compose and that all musical genres are available for use, from high modernism to downtown funk. She isn't interested in cheap irony or vain attempts at hipness, though; she's stylistically inclusive because she simply wants to make interesting and original sounds.

There's not a dull piece on this disc: Each is well crafted and has a specific, singular voice. Spring Rounds, for brass quintet (a conventional ensemble), has pomp and menace to it, stylistically careering between William Schuman and Miles Davis. The third movement, "Harmonic Fable," offers beautiful melodies that weave in and out to create "lonely city" music in the tradition of Aaron Copland.

Sonata for the Inner Ear is the most ambitious piece on the disc. Even by totalist standards, this sprawling, epic work is unafraid to be loud and even less afraid to be fragile. Smashing chords give way to beautiful melodies; trembling, spiky sonorities melt into light-hearted ragtim-ish figurations, and it all happens with an effortless flow.

The recording itself, however, does Brazelton a mild disservice: The sound is sterile and lacking in depth. Thanks should go to the CRI label, which warrants applause for issuing such stimulating fare, but the subpar audio quality only makes one long for what might have been.—Danny Felsenfeld

related links:

"Chamber Music for the Inner Ear"

Other CDs by Kitty Brazelton

CRI (Composers Recordings Inc.)

Kitty Brazelton, composer

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