A private memory to introduce this review. In my beginnings as a music writer – we’re talking early 90s – I had a chance to get in touch with Tim Brady for a long-distance interview, carried out via letter (!) to end in a feature on the Deep Listenings quarterly. During the correspondence, Brady expressed amazement at an Italian owning some of his very first solo albums, such as dR.E.aM.s and The Persistence Of Vision. Little did he know that many people all over the world would discuss his not-exactly-classifiable compositions and operas twenty years later, and counting.
The record’s title recalls a nearly namesake Steve Reich piece and, indeed, one can detect occasional traces of slight Reichian influence dispersed across the three movements of “Désir”. It’s a concert for electric guitar and orchestra, expertly mingling practical skill (inevitably, given the level of virtuosity required) and the urge to explore the different possibilities of the guitar/orchestra reciprocity. The bulk of the sound is vehemently spiky, rhythmically intricate, speckled with abstraction yet concretely up-to-date. Brady’s fretboard dexterity – frequently in evidence – is undeniable.
“Eight Songs about: Symphony #7” is a 38-minute opera based on a dramatic episode in the history of Russia, in which the complicated relationship between Dmitri Shostakovich and Josef Stalin was embedded. This reviewer, perhaps culpably, has never been fond of the typical mannerisms (read “commonplaces”) related to opera; on the contrary, the genre has repeatedly caused bellyaches and boredom, including celebrated contemporary “milestones” (John Adams’ Nixon In China, anyone?). Still, after repeated listens I managed to ascertain the earnestness of Brady’s attempt to acoustically delineate personalities inside the textural environment. Here, as well, the sheer force of the instrumental writing warrants several fragments of contrapuntal brilliance; an intelligently dissonant perspective sustains the vocal modules quite efficiently.
Brady is capable of conjuring up diverse designs, their substance evident in the sonic translation. Prepare yourselves to give the right amount of time to Music For Large Ensemble in order to appreciate its merits. They’re not few.