Matt Starling: Dorian Reeds (For Brass)
Matt Starling's (formerly Matt Dixon) love for all things Terry Riley continues on Dorian Reeds (For Brass), his bold adaptation of Riley's important 1964 composition and follow-up to the 2010 recording of In C by the Salt Lake Electric Ensemble, an eight-member outfit founded by Starling in 2009. Just as that treatment of In C was notable for (among other reasons) being the first time Riley's classic 1964 composition had been realized primarily using electronic instruments, so too is the new recording notable, if for a different reason: with Starling having executed the recording using a flugelhorn, Dorian Reeds (For Brass) is the first time the score has been recorded with an instrument outside the saxophone family (in fact, it had only previously been recorded with a soprano saxophone).
Scored for solo performer, microphone, and two tape recorders, Dorian Reeds (For Brass) was realized by Starling using the same tape loop technique as Brian Eno and Robert Fripp used for No Pussyfooting and Evening Star. The reason why Starling selected the flugelhorn is not only because of the proficiency he's developed on the instrument since childhood but also because of its warm, mellifluous tone. After he recorded each portion of the score in João Pessoa, Brazil, the production process moved to his production studio in Salt Lake City, Utah where the parts were edited, arranged, mixed, and mastered.
It's a recording that demands to be listened to on either a high-end system (ideally surround sound) or on high-quality headphones. Under such conditions, the spatial distribution of the flugelhorn's layers is heard with the utmost clarity, an effect that enables the listener to all the more surrender to the sinuous flow of the music's constantly evolving pulsations. As the layers of flugelhorn tones and patterns accumulate, Dorian Reeds (For Brass) grows ever more declamatory, resulting in an insistent music one might describe as controlled euphoria. Its elegant flow also might be characterized as aquatic, considering the way single flugelhorn notes repeatedly bob to the surface of the incessantly rushing river before submerging to rejoin the multi-layered whole.
Though a kind of motorik repetition is fundamental to the composition, it's not static, as it advances steadily through episodes of varying character over the course of its run; what makes that less noticeable is how seamlessly those transitions occur. It's also worth noting that Dorian Reeds (For Brass) plays without pause for forty-two keening minutes, which grants the listener the greatest possible opportunity to be transported.