What makes a release experimental or at the very least be promoted to a more progressive audience? Is Terry Riley a classical composer or a musical rebel who redefined how music is created and listened to? The answer depends on who the buyer is for that particular store. At Bob’s mega-chain Terry Riley is in the classical section, but at Joe’s indie cove he is in the coveted avant bin. The music is the same but unfortunately the audience is not. I say unfortunately because this kind of targeted exposure risks losing a listener (and a purchaser). I know that I have missed out on an amazing album or two because some marketing drone labeled a release classical or as new age. I don’t avoid those genres but it is tough to sift through these fields. It is much easier to browse the sections that claim to be in my area of interest. All in all it just goes back to the cliched phrase that there are only two types of music: good and bad.
Which brings us to this album and its flirtations with multiple genres and its refusal to be categorized. Fleeting Music is captivating and it beckons the listener to explore/identify all of the nuances in the sound (regardless of genre). The music has roots in classical composition, minimalism (in the Reich/Riley schools of thought) and ambient. But this is ambient in the Eno sense and not the experimental variety. That is, music that can exist to fill a space and to operate as a tonal background. Yet this background can yield to the listener and become the center of their auditory world. Jean-Philippe Collard-Neven’s piano performance owes much to the before mentioned minimalism but his deceptively simple piano phrasing and composition is able to produce a virtual “wall of sound” that does not feel minimal at all. The success of the album lies in this ability to create something intense through the smallest means without giving up the inherit beauty contained inside a piano note. A stunning complex work that demands repeated back to back listens.
I still don’t know how to categorize this album. The Sub Rosa website has a section entitled unclassical and maybe that it what fits the best. The term really has no meaning but implies much. Either way, this CD should not be overlooked by classical or experimental buyers – it will be worth your time.
My advice is support your local record store and purchase this CD (and a few others).