In The Beginning
USA NEW WORLD RECORDS 80735-2 2 x CD (2012)
One abiding concern of renowned American multi-disciplinary musician/composer David Rosenboom‘s work has been the idea that minimalistic starting points can, if rigorously explored, create works of elegant depth and complexity. The conceit is simple enough, in one sense: take simple elements, build and weave layers of same, and by accretion a certain kind of intensity ensues. Artistic success lies equally in the careful handling of material and dedication to the logic of the method itself.
This nicely-presented two disc set showcases key works of this kind, chronologically covering the four-year period 1978 to 1981, and including extensive sleevenotes by fellow composer Chris Brown. Over the course of eight (mostly lengthy) pieces, Rosenboom exposes his system to a wide range of settings and instrumentation as well as varied numbers of personnel – from solos, on synthesiser or piano, through duos and trios, featuring anything from trombone to computer, to larger ensembles comprising orchestral instruments. The roll-call includes long-standing collaborators, Rosenboom’s son, Daniel on trumpet and William Winant on percussion.
Notable is the pointillistic precision of the opening track, ‘In The Beginning I (Electronic)’, which sees Rosenboom on solo Buchla. Fluid hi-fidelity folds of sound, unexpressively, in the best sense of the word, mount and merge into an orchestra-sized arrangement. Despite the mathematical process involved, this is never without beauty, never merely mechanical or metronomic, and seldom purely textural. There is a warmth when one could so easily end up with a form of austere academism. Here, and with the album generally, in fact, the listener can opt to pursue one tiny acorn or swallow the proceedings whole.
The ensemble interplay of pieces such as ‘In the Beginning III (Quintet)’ and ‘In the Beginning V (The Story)’ elaborate further upon this sensibility, by exploiting the multiplicity of possible tones and timbres of brass, woodwind, percussion etc. Rosenboom’s output covers a multitude of outlooks and interests – including somewhat freer music, as exemplified, for instance, in his collaborations with Winant. In the Beginning has a definitive air about it, and is as good an introduction to this particular and important aspect of Rosenboom’s work as any.