Stephen Scott’s Bowed Piano Ensemble; Victoria Hansen: soprano; Saraiya Ruano: native American flutes.
To keep a steady rhythm in the “bad news” song of this year, we were recently informed by Stephen Scott that 2014 will bring the curtain down on both his teaching job and the performing activities of the Bowed Piano Ensemble, originated in 1977 and the core of absolute landmarks of modern (and less) music. To this day Vikings Of The Sunrise stands as an incomparable pinnacle (although certain fragments of “Baltic Sketches”, which closes this album, do recall some of its traits). As an ultimate adieu, Ice & Fire is a masterful-as-ever compendium of what the Colorado-based composer has managed to look into over the course of a career where not a moment of acceptance of ordinariness has been sighted.
This CD showcases the trademark sonorities of the Ensemble in their emotive complexity while adding a few episodes typified by slightly different attributes. I’m talking about the initial “Afternoon On A Fire”, characterized by the piano innards’ dialogue with Ruano’s improvisations on the native American flute, and by the tracks where Hansen lends her voice: an interesting variation on Miles Davis’ “In A Silent Way” (also comprising a fragment of Scott’s The Deep Spaces) and the Spanish-tinged “La Guitarra”, previously met on 2002’s Audible Landscapes. Should one remember the BPE for the cathartic states reached during past experiences – who can forget the emotional shakeups while approaching Minerva’s Web or New Music For Bowed Piano? – nothing more is needed than listening to “New York Drones” and – especially – “Aurora Ficta”, a 13-minute acoustic depiction of the so-called “false dawn” (in astronomical terms) that nevertheless warrants the same internal processes set in motion by the contemplation of a soundless sunset.
Stephen Scott’s creative output has always been a reminder of how we, as human beings, have possibilities of finely tuned intrinsic motility that regrettably remain almost systematically undiscovered. However, when ethereally moving harmonies – like the ones contained herein and most elsewhere in this artist’s discography – succeed in putting those systems in action, earthly matters really do not mean much anymore.
Farewell to the Bowed Piano Ensemble, then. But the records still survive, for our good luck.