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"Morphology of a Lover": Intricate instrumental interactions (review)

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On Sunday, February 10, Ottawa composer Ryan Purchase presented the first public performance of his nine-movement suite titled "Morphology of a Lover".

It was an evening of intricate interactions among the instruments ©Brett Delmage. 2013

Performing with him were many of the musicians who contributed to the improvised composition and recording of the suite, soon to be released on CD.

The four core musicians: Purchase on trombone, Joel Kerr on bass, Mike Essoudry on drums, and Yoni Kaston on accordion and clarinet were joined for individual songs by Craig Pedersen on trumpet, Mark Molnar and Raphael Weinroth-Browne on cello, and Linsey Wellman on alto sax.

Purchase stated up-front that the music played that night could be very different from the CD because much of it would be improvised, even though it shared the same basic concepts.

It was an evening of intricate interactions among the instruments. The sound moved from quite sparse and quiet for the first three movements, to much denser and louder near the end. The fourth movement, "Her Neck", which also featured Pedersen, had all five instruments vibrating, each in a different manner: buzzing trumpet, roughly-bowed bass, clattering drums, resonant accordion, and fast hard riffs on trombone -- and ended with a drum roll.

"Her Wings" (#6) had both cellos singing in deep accordance with Kerr's bass and low notes on the trombone, reminding me of lonely plateaus and deserted spaces. It then rose to a cacophony before ending with a dirge. "Her Webbed Toes", the last movement, moved from low notes to what almost sounded like a folk dance and to repeated but different riffs on each instrument before slowing and fading out.

Each movement was dedicated to an aspect of a woman – which Purchase clarified was a mythical composite, not an actual person. In any case, even xenobiologists might find it difficult to identify anyone with all of fingers, breasts, wings, webbed toes, and tentacles, among other appendages mentioned. But it would surely be an interesting discovery, just as the concert was.

The concert attracted a full house at the Umi Cafe, and strong applause at the end from a highly attentive audience.

    – Alayne McGregor

All photos ©Brett Delmage, 2013
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