California-based American composer Jason Federmeyer’s inward/echo is an intricately woven and unusually singing piece for chamber orchestra. Like Turgut Erçetin’s first string quartet, this piece is extraordinarily complex (props to the Ensemble Inauthentica from CalArts on their performance) but is able to use that complexity to bring more easily understood musical aspects to the foreground. Perhaps this similarity is partially due to their time spent studying at Stanford, but regardless, I really have enjoyed hearing these two composers (and many others who I have featured on this blog) use painstaking precision to arrive at great sounds.
inward/echo begins with an extended English horn solo. The solo goes for about 15 measures before the first clean pitch (in this case, I mean a normally played note that do not use unusual extended techniques of the instrument) outside of C#, D, and Eb is played. Instead, Federmeyer primarily explores within the quarter tones between these three semitones. This creates a uniquely melodic line that grabs your ear. Additionally, this line has more continuous activity than any single other instrument so this helps further differentiate it.
The line is backed up by the orchestra which is used as a vehicle to color the English horn line. There is a huge amount of detailed activity going on during this solo. For example, in the first page of music in the score in just the strings pizzicatos, snap pizzicatos, glissandi, harmonics, indications to play in different locations on the string/bridge, and varying amounts of pressure are utilized. Counterintuitively, this actually does not overwhelm the lines of the music. Instead since the other instruments are instead invoked more as fleeting gestures, it never detracts from the listeners ability to hear the most important material.
Even though I spoke mostly of the first moments of the piece, the whole piece is quite cool and worth listening to. I really enjoyed listening to this piece today and hope you will too.
Thoughts on the music? Feel free to comment below!