LOW STOCK LEVEL
Elisabeth Smalt, viola; The Barton Workshop. Frank Denver's music doesn't adhere to any easily defined aesthetic prescripts, and the four recent works on this disc resist categorization and ready comparison to the work of other composers. The music on this CD is far from abstract, and the titles of the four works suggest as much -- being rich in imagery and association and yet resistant to simple narrative interpretation. Sonically the four works share a common sense of intimacy. They inhabit an extremely quiet sound world. They place as great an importance on the level of nuance -- in the strange quality of a particular microtonal interval, or a delicate shading of timbre, or a novel combination of instrumental and vocal sound -- as they do on long melodic lines or large-scale formal structures. In these pieces there are resonances (both sonic and associational) of sounds from the real world, or perhaps from dreams: breathing sounds (sometimes calm, sometimes sharp and disturbing intakes of breath); footsteps; knocking sounds; a crow call. These sounds exist on a kind of threshold, not immediately registering as music, and they subtly dislodge our listening from its familiar habits. The conventional instruments used here violin, viola, flute, clarinet hardly ever sound as they normally do, largely because the sounds they make are so soft, so disembodied, that they seem like voices of a post-Holocaust civilization. Occasional fragments of melody drift past, seeming at times like imperfectly remembered snatches of something familiar. All four works present combinations of instruments that have rarely if ever been heard together before, offering totally fresh sonic images."