Friday, January 11, 2013

CCC 055 - Beth Anderson

Just because you use traditions doesn't mean you have to be a slave to them. Beth Anderson, our featured Consonant Classical Challenge composer is a good example of that. This American composer has been labeled a neo-romantic, and that's true to a certain extent. She decidedly uses tonal harmonies to support her melodies, and said melodies flow in logical and lyrical fashion.

But, as perhaps befitting a student of  John Cage and Terry Riley, her musical language is exclusively her own. Anderson's primary music form is something she developed and calls a swale. According Anderson, a swale is a collection of original musical samples arranged in an aural collage. It's an original way to organize music, and one that works quite well for Anderson.

The Cleveland Swale for two double basses and piano is a good example of this highly individualistic genre. This 2001 composition presents all the major components of a swale, but listen to the overall effect of sounding both familiar and unique at the same time.

The Pennyroyal Swale is a work for string quartet. Like other musical forms, the swale can be adopted to accommodate different groupings of instruments.Anderson has composed swales for orchestras as well as smaller ensembles.

Of course, Anderson isn't locked into a single form of composition. The Kummi Dance for flute and piano shows her melodic gifts to great advantage.

Beth Anderson has composed swales (and other types of works) for chamber groups, solo instruments, and orchestras. In my opinion, her music should appeal to a wide variety of listeners. Her tonal base provides a familiar starting-point for more traditional-minded audiences, but every work sound fresh and innovative. And really isn't something that speaks to all audiences something that programmers should be looking for?

Recommended Recordings

Beth Anderson: Quilt Music

Beth Anderson: Swales and Angels

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