Friday, February 15, 2013

CCC 059 Cindy McTee

American composer Cindy McTee is our next entry in the Consonant Classical Challenge McTee's music could be considered somewhat on the outskirts of our survey parameters, but that's alright. Just because a work is tonal doesn't have to mean it's nothing more than pleasant background music -- far from it. What this challenge is all about is finding those living composers (like McTee) who are using venerated music traditions in new and interesting ways to create works of real artistic merit.

McTee's compositional style is just that. Her harmonies are mostly tonal, which provides a solid frame of reference for the listener. Around that frame, however, she borrows rhythmic patterns from rock, melodic twists from jazz, and a manner of orchestration that's all her own. The result is music that might shock the blue-hairs, but should make any music lover under 50 feel right at home.

Her work Finish Line provides a good introduction to McTee's style. It's a jaunty, very rhythmic work with what sounds like (to my ears) Leonard Bernstein-like jazz riffs.

Circuits relies heavily on a forward-moving pulse, so it's no surprise that McTee uses percussion extensively (and imaginatively). The bass clarinet gets a workout, too! Dissonance is used more for irony and to inject a sense of playfulness than to shock -- and it succeeds admirably.

Einstein's Dream is very much a programmatic work, providing musical impressions of what a genius' dreams might be like. The first movement has an interesting mix of excerpts by Bach mixed with ethereal, atmospheric sounds. The second movement features a highly expressive solo violin part, repeating catchy little motifs and mixes them with some lively syncopation.

In some ways, McTee is the voice of her generation, using the shared musical language that spans both popular and classical music for her works. To my ears, it's an appealing combination. And it's one, I hope, concert (and radio) programmers will consider when dealing with the problem of an aging audience.

Recommended Recordings

Composer's Collection: Cindy McTee

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