I’ve gotten into contemporary composed music over the past few years, starting with John Luther Adams’ Become Ocean and Simeon ten Holt’s Canto Ostinato. Since my realization that classical music didn’t cease to be at some point in the 1800s, I’ve become very interested in instrumental compositions that can do things which no other genre of music can do. Jim Perkins‘ “As Light Moves” is a piece of music that wouldn’t work in any other genre; it speaks in the voice of classical composition and says something unique.
“As Light Moves” is a piece for string sextet that draws heavily on the deep dynamic range of stringed instruments to create great surges of sound from a few instruments. The dynamic range is huge, moving from near-silence to completely full repeatedly. The sound washes over the ear, rising and falling, creating a beautiful, lush experience that you wouldn’t expect from just six players. The melodic elements place some drone-style violin bowing against a slowly unfolding, walking-pace melody. The piece feels light and also serious; the gravitas here is not heavy-handed. Instead, the piece has a dignity that comes of patience and clarity. The instrumental parts weave in and out of each other elegantly; this lovely composition work paired with the intensity of dynamic range create the feeling of lushness and the experience of not knowing how many people are playing.
The mood does darken and feel a bit more ominous towards the high point of the piece (around four minutes), but the coda returns to the lightness of the opening and smooths the piece’s conclusion. It’s a lovely piece that moves in a real way through the four-minute run-time, revealing aspects of the composition as it goes. The ideas are strong, the composition is deftly handled, the performances are strong, and the recording job is excellent. It speaks in a specific voice. Overall, a very satisfying composition for strings.
“As Light Moves” comes from Jim Perkins’ Pools, which is out on October 3 from Bigo & Twigetti. —Stephen Carradini