Regular readers won’t be surprised to hear that I am completely ignorant to classical music. As someone who tends to focus on lyrical narratives and compelling writing, classical music leaves me a tad stranded when it comes time to analyze and review what’s going on.
Unfortunately for me Winter and Construction is very much classical music, but not in the olde timey sense. University of Maine at Fort Kent Professor Scott Brickman is the album’s composer and plays heavily with abstract arrangements within these pieces. There’s a great deal of pauses, looping melodies and tension created by sudden high notes and booming chords. Many of the pieces feel chaotic and deconstructed, but there’s enough repetition to them that they don’t wander too far off the experimental end.
What really makes the record fun are the collaborations. The first thirteen tracks are divided into four suites, and each suite is taken up by a different artist (with the exception of the first and third, which are both played by pianist Nathaneal May). But the tracks “Styx,” “Eurydice” and “Morpheus” are the album’s highlight. Guitarist Matt Gould plays these songs, the album’s most frantic, with a precision that really draws out the minimalism and subtlety of Brickman’s compositions. Those fond for a more “complete” sound will look forward to the last three tracks performed by the Strung Out Trio and Duo 42 ensembles.
It’s weird. It’s really weird. But it succeeds in being dramatic and interesting while offering up plenty of variety. Even if you’re not the classical type this album is definitely worth a shot.
I’m confused. My mind has yet to make sense of this.
Scott Brickman teaches at the University of Maine at Fort Kent, a town where I spent the first twelve years of my life and where I don’t remember hearing more than a few notes of classical or jazz. He has also composed a very listenable collection of intimate, dissonant, abstract, beautiful classical music for solo instruments and small ensembles. I will admit that when I first started listening to the record, I thought there had been a mistake, that the files had been mislabeled, but as I did a bit of research, I’ve found that this Scott Brickman is that Scott Brickman, and it blows my mind.
The record begins with “Piano Sonata No. 2,” played by Nathaniel Mays. It takes a good minute or so to get into what is happening but as soon as it clicks, you want to start the first track over again. The sonata is made up of four tracks on record and develops clear musical themes over the span of its running time. Followed up by “L’Orfeo,” made up of three parts and played on solo guitar by Matt Gould, there is a definite change in tone but also, for my short attention span, keeps the listening interesting and the compositions distinct. Mays returns for “Piano Sonata No. 3” which brings back elements from “No. 2” but is also comforting in its familiarity. Beth Ilana Schneider-Gould performs “Fiddleheads” on violin and as far as the three different instruments take on Brickman go, this is certainly the best. It’s busy and noisy and not exactly welcoming, but when a sudden melody cuts through, it’s gold.
“Snowball” brings the three players together (also known as the Strung Out Trio) and is noticeably less abstract than the solo pieces. After a moody intro in step with the rest of the record, things build up and take off about halfway through. Gould and Schneider-Gould handle the fine “Knotty Pines” with the trio returning for the epic title track.
Classical in general is not a genre that I have the best handle on but I found this to be quite entertaining, extremely well played and surprisingly forward thinking. I’m still shocked that this is coming out of the great woods of Northern Maine, but I can’t really complain about it.
You can preview and purchase Scott’s album from Google Play’s music store.