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This recording of music by Costa Rican composers Mauricio Pauly and Pablo Chin performed by Chicago based Fonema Consort explores the boundaries of form—where structures are endangered by the very tensions that sustain them—and of meaning—where words verge on pure sound and where musical sound is itself loosed from its conventional moorings. Fonema Consort, founded in 2011 by Chin and singer Nina Dante, is an ensemble devoted to expanding the repertoire for voice and ensemble and is the perfect vehicle for these works that place avant garde gestures traditionally reserved for instrumental writing into the ultimate human context, the voice. Text setting also plays a central role in this disc, with poetry by such figures as Octavio Paz and Lawrence Ferlinghetti shaping the expressive landscape for the compositions. Whether or not Chin and Pauly reflect a shared Costa Rican aesthetic is a question for the critics to answer, but certainly their penchant for prioritizing the visceral gesture over a systematic treatment of material indicates a common sensibility, especially in their vocal writing. The result is that despite the music's obvious sophistication, it hits the emotions before the mind, albeit in surprising and altogether unpredictable ways. The interesting dichotomy between "instrumental" and "vocal" material and the way this music challenges those boundaries reveals itself in the first minutes of the opening track, Solo es real la niebla, where soprano Nina Dante shifts back and forth between swooping melismatic treatments of the text, imitative textures with the ensemble, and extended vocal techniques. Even when Ms. Dante sings material that is "instrumental" in character, the physicality of her voice adds an extra layer of expression. In Pauly's Dust Unsettled, this dichotomy is underscored, as the vocalist's extreme roles shift according to the section of the composition, traveling through distant timbres in the chamber texture, text recitation, and fragments of poignant song. Chin's and Pauly's experimental approaches strive to break through conventional ways of hearing to reach a more direct expression of powerful and complex emotion.

Chicago based ensemble Fonema Consort performs works by Costa Rican composers Pablo Santiago Chin and Mauricio Pauly that stretch vocal chamber music into new and highly expressive territory, lending new poignancy and immediacy to gestures traditionally associated with the avant garde. These works also explore the boundaries of form—where structures are endangered by the very tensions that sustain them—and of meaning—where words verge on pure sound and where musical sound is itself loosed from its conventional moorings. Fonema Consort, founded in 2011 by Chin and singer Nina Dante, is an ensemble devoted to expanding the repertoire for voice and ensemble and is the perfect vehicle for these works that place avant garde gestures traditionally reserved for instrumental writing into the ultimate human context, the voice. Text setting also plays a central role in this disc, with poetry by such figures as Octavio Paz and Lawrence Ferlinghetti shaping the expressive landscape for the compositions.

Whether or not Chin and Pauly reflect a shared Costa Rican aesthetic is a question for the critics to answer, but certainly their penchant for prioritizing the visceral gesture over a systematic treatment of material indicates a common sensibility, especially in their vocal writing. The result is that despite the music’s obvious sophistication, it hits the emotions before the mind, albeit in surprising and altogether unpredictable ways. The interesting dichotomy between “instrumental” and “vocal” material and the way this music challenges those boundaries reveals itself in the first minutes of the opening track, Solo es real la niebla, where soprano Nina Dante shifts back and forth between swooping melismatic treatments of the text, imitative textures with the ensemble, and extendedvocal techniques. But because the voice is so directly connected to a universal experience, even when Ms. Dante sings material that is “instrumental” in character, we hear an extra layer of expression because of our empathy with her physicality. In Pauly’s Dust Unsettled, this dichotomy is underscored, as the extreme roles the vocalist is placed in shift according to the section of the composition, traveling through distant timbres in the chamber texture, spoken word, and brief fragments of poignant song. Chin and Pauly’s experimental approach strives to break through conventional ways of hearing to reach a more direct expression of powerful and sometimes quixotic emotion.

credits

released May 6, 2014

Recorded at the Experimental Sound Studio in Chicago by Alex Inglizian

Edited by Pablo Santiago Chin and Mauricio Pauly
Mixed and Mastered by Alex Inglizian
Produced by Pablo Santiago Chin
Photography by Marc Perlish
Artwork and design by Ben Knight

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New Focus Recordings New York, New York

New Focus Recordings is an artist led collective label featuring releases in contemporary music of many stripes, as well as new approaches to older repertoire. The label was founded by guitarist Daniel Lippel (who is the current director) and composer Peter Gilbert in 2003, and features releases from many of new music's most active performers and composers. ... more

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