A multi-instrumentalist composer born in Minnesota but residing in NY, Mario Diaz De León’s music has been thoroughly inspired by numerous experiences, starting with his role as a guitar player in hardcore punk groups and culminating in studies with the late Maryanne Amacher and George Lewis. Declared influences are – among a number of other things and humans – Scelsi, Ligeti, Dumitrescu and Radulescu. Not bad for a 31-year old who started to write for classical instruments only in 2001, and today is able to keep us on the edge of our pants with a vibrant synthesis of drama and idiosyncratic creativity.
The opening “Mansion” alternates obsessive flutes and unfeeling computerized appearances in a series of pre-constructed scenarios in which noise and percussion establish an environment of shifting balances and hardly bearable tensions, a sense of perilous imminence characterizing the entire piece, which sounds more improvised than composed in a rather fresh way. “The Flesh Needs Fire” – for flute, clarinets and electronics – is a juicy taster of the composer’s unique identity, explicated through assortments of glistening juxtapositions and climactic crescendos of morphing harmonics amidst granular ruggedness which, later on, give room to rhythmically challenging contrapuntal appropriations.
“II.23” – Wendy Richman’s viola at the same time fighting and courting an array of murmured menaces and ungentle intrusions – is one of the most emotionally charged tracks on offer, the demonstration of what’s possible to accomplish with a correct dosage of coldness and passion in a sublime fusion of acoustic and electronic. The subsequent “2.20” unites a string trio and the ever-present abstractness in a concentrated inflammation which does not preclude the possibility of entering the sonic picture almost concretely, such are the vividness of the narration and the brilliance of the concept. The final portion of this score comprises some seriously engrossing intuitions – please go and check yourselves.
The album is sealed by “Gated Eclipse”. The pedestrian dulcis in fundo commonplace would be appropriate enough, hadn’t the excellence of the preceding material already alerted about this man’s potential. A complex combination of effective sharpness and poignant stability is generated by a magnificent sextet – flute, clarinet, piano, percussion, violin and cello – tuning the music to impenetrable auras while leaving us catch a vague glimpse of superior levels of understanding. Now, think of the endless ages spent by many poor souls to “interpret” the compositional mechanisms of “illustrious geniuses” – you know, Vivaldi, Mozart, Strauss and the likes, people who churned out petite playgroup songs adorned by orchestral bric-a-brac upon commission for the ecstasy of spiritually undersized aural illiterates. As one sees all of this rendered null and void by a synthetic sublimation of cosmic harmony lasting just over 13 minutes, sneers of irony and tears of compassion are equally justified.