Frank Denyer's (b.1943, London) music is the work of a truly original mind, one that sees and hears the world just a little differently. The six pieces on this CD are unlike the music of any other composer working today, celebrating the richness of acoustic sound in all its inexhaustible variety. The composer supervised performances are by The Barton Workshop, which Denyer co-founded in 1990.
Out of the Shattered Shadows 1 is music of great subtlety not only timbrally but also melodically. Denyer makes use of microtonal intervals that are both highly expressive and somewhat otherworldly - no fewer than twenty-seven notes have to be retuned on the spinet, involving not merely quartertones but third-, sixth-, and even tenth-tones.
In the concert hall, Out of the Shattered Shadows 2 appears to be a work for eight musicians, four male vocalists and four instrumentalists (viola, two flutes, and percussion); then, just over halfway into the piece, the work suddenly takes an unexpected turn with the distant sounds of three offstage musicians.
The most recent work on this disc, Faint Traces, is music of extraordinary quietness, seeming to come to the listener from an ephemeral world. Denyer has suggested parallels with the use of dance in some forms of Asian drama, where the dance "bridges impossible divisions where words won't do". So too the use of spoken and sung words, like fragments of an overheard conversation, which suggest another dimension beyond the musical surface.
Music for Two Performers. The two musicians produce vocal sounds - not singing, exactly, but a mixture of sung tones, grunts, growls, breath sounds, percussive consonants, and non-vocal sounds such as handclaps.
Play uses a restricted pitch range of less than an octave, and quartertone divisions of the tempered scale. The woodwind lines use an unusual mode consisting mostly of intervals three-quarters of a tone apart. This odd tuning was difficult enough to master in the 1970s and is not significantly easier today.
Passages consists of seven passages of music with no transitions between them. But the title also refers to the fact that this music was written shortly after Denyer returned to England from three years in Africa, researching and teaching. The music is a sort of rite of passage, not merely between two countries but between two cultures with quite different emotional ties for him.