Wayne Horvitz has a lot of recordings under his belt — as band leader, as band member, as producer, as solo artist.
And while “composer” is another title on which he can lay claim, only one recording documents that aspect of his ouevre.
But if Otis Spann and Other Compositions is any indication, there really ought to be more. (I always wondered what “Yuba City”, his commission for Kronos Quartet which he recorded with the President, sounds like.)
Horvitz is something of a technological artist — he can elicit strange timbres from synthesizers but still manage to infuse humanity into them.
So it’s little surprise that when real people playing non-electronic instruments tackle his music, it’s even more striking.
The five-movement title piece possesses Horvitz’s signature melodic and harmonic sense, but aspects of his electronic work that seemed mechanical reveal themselves to be deliberate and effective in an acoustic setting.
Horvitz is fond of drones, and in the final measures of “Coda”, a violin plays a vibrato-less high note. It’s nearly imperceptable, but it’s presence is forceful.
The insistent pulse of “9/8” demonstrates Horvitz’s economy with material. In an electronic setting, such repetition would come across as mechanical, but here, it’s slightly closer to minimalism.
And it’s easy to imagine “Love, Love, Love” tricked out with Tucker Martine’s percussive samples in an imaginary 4+1 Ensemble arrangement.
To fill out the rest of the disc, Horvitz composed additional pieces for the Seattle Chamber Players.
“After a Time” and “Ann Arbor, 1971” pit acoustic instruments against Horvitz’s ethereal programming, but the pieces without electronics — “Fanfare” and “Thursday, At Dusk, In Spokane, Washington” — stand out more.
“Thursday, At Dusk” is introspective and beautifully performed by clarinetist Laura Deluca and Horvitz on the piano. “Fanfare”, a solo piece for cello, gets an expressive reading by David Sabee.
But Horvitz can’t leave his electronics alone, so each of these additional pieces are accompanied by remixes. “Remix” is an understatement — in the case of “Fanfare” and “After a Time”, they’re almost entirely different pieces.
Still, hearing Horvitz’s compositional sense in a setting devoid of electronics casts a different light on his studio work. He may be a great improviser able to make random events sound like fate, but there’s an inherent attention to detail that expresses itself in very warm, affecting music.