The thing that I notice more than anything else hearing the pieces on Keeril Makan’s second CD Target is that they almost all seemingly have a similar structure of a setup, a climax, and an unraveling of sorts.
While the opening piece for violin and percussion titled 2 has the biggest unraveling you’ll ever hear at the end (Tam Tam and scratch-tones that are made to sound as if a metallic building is collapsing on top of a den of lions inside The Grand Canyon if Arizona was The Sistine Chapel), its layout is much more sectional and varied like a Liszt or Schubert sonata. The piece overall is played with such brilliance by Jennifer Choi and David Shively, and I particularly enjoy the shrill, faster section.
The solo cello piece Zones d’accord (performed by Alex Waterman) starts with a distorted drone (One that makes one reminiscent of some great moments in guitar feedback) that descends into furious passages and piercing phrases that fall back into a more silent drone.
The title piece Target, written in collaboration with poet Jena Osman as a commentary on US military intervention tactics (with actual military leaflets sampled in Osman’s texts), is a 5-song cycle performed by contemporary chamber ensemble California E.A.R. and mezzo-soprano Laurie Rubin. In a slow-rising chord progression on “Twister I” (By contrast, you hear the reverse of the progression on the final section “Twister II”), Rubin, doubling on the melody with the flute (and backed by strings), sings at the top of her range once the piece is fully-engaged. Rubin does this with such fearless abandon, and she is equally compelling when she sings a few phrases in a dry, vulnerable half-spoken a capella.
Resonance Alloy is an epic all-percussion piece performed by David Shively. Scored for 3 cymbals and a gong, the piece gradually moves you through various degrees of vibration and volume using only simplistic gestures on the metallic objects, and as they each take a solo as in a jazz combo performance, the piece is eventually brought back to the opening theme.
After receiving great press from the NY Times and a blessing of an endorsement by David Lang on the CD’s liner notes, I can safely declare that Keeril Makan is definitely a composer that is destined for greatness, and this recording is proof of that. Just when you start to think “It’s all been done”, he proves that it quite possibly hasn’t been.