When the art of a talented composer is dispersed through a scarce number of releases, the classic line goes like “criminally under-recorded”. In the case of Lois V Vierk, though, a serious reason – a recurrent enfeebling condition hindering her writing efforts for extended periods – justifies the rarity of albums containing her works. Moreover, she had been a close witness (“out of our apartment window”, as she writes) of the events that shook New York and the rest of the world on September 11, 2001, at first remaining – as virtually all New Yorkers – “in a kind of daze” for months. But right after that, she threw away all the unfinished sketches accumulated until then, and started working on the striking two-part opus that gives this CD its name.
Similarly to most of Vierk’s output, the noble symmetry of the piano/cello duo “Words Fail Me” is influenced by Gagaku, the Japanese court music of long ago. This can either result in passages characterized by a stunning melancholic beauty, or in more prominent pulses culminating in vehement crescendos pervaded by an immaterial potency. Everything is highlighted by an educated use of glissando as a transitional means from a harmonic sphere to the next, a typical trait of Vierk’s acoustic aesthesia. Another notable moment in this program is “Timberline”, which sets analogous visions in a wider orchestral frame while establishing a correspondence between the audience’s imagination and the score’s necessities. The initial “To Stare Astonished At The Sea” – incidentally, a title reflecting one of this writer’s favorite experiences – is a relatively short voyage across Inner Piano Overtone Land, whereas in “The Demon Star” a cello/marimba dialogue characterizes the lone episode where a somewhat mechanical tactility overcomes an unadulterated emotional response.
This soft-spoken woman does not need bombast to affirm the values – both interior and exterior – that make her scores a pleasure to listen to. Focusing on few precise concepts while steering clear of distracting anomalies, these pieces reflect a whole spiritual universe with the grace of a timid smile, but without any reticence. At the same time they reveal themselves to be much stronger than their occasionally fragile appearance; in that regard, Larry Polansky is absolutely spot on when depicting his friend’s music as “merciless” and “rewarding” at once. From the analysis of Words Fail Me’s five tracks we gathered a sense of individual hyperacuity and mental composure, and a renewed will of including Vierk among this era’s wrongfully unsung greats.