Frank Denyer - The Fish that became the Sun (Songs of the Disposs [Another Timbre - 2019]The Fish that became the Sun (Songs of the Dispossessed) is a startling varied, shifting, and at times wholly unpredictable piece of modern composition. The work is for forty players/ musicians- with the nearing hour-long work moving between playful darting & layered, dense & brooding, and paired back-ness that moves between moody & mischievous. The CD release appears on the always reliable British modern composition/ modern classical label Another Timbre.
Frank Denyer is an English composer who has been active since the 1980s. His work utilizes a blend of conventional instrumentations, as well as unequal, unusual, and structurally modified instruments. He spent years studying non-Western music- so much of Denyer's music is microtonal, or he uses non-western tunings. With the above description, youíd might expect this hour-long work to be both difficult & wholly un-approachable- but oddly itís surprisingly eventful, playful & at times quite harmonic approachable- though it is an epic beast of a track- both in its use of formal instrumentation, created instrumentation, and sound use- as well as itís scope, flow & unfold- all making for very much of a sonic adventure, where youíre not sure quite where you'll go next, or land up at in the end. Though for all its shift, move, and scope it all feels well structured and meaningful in itís runtime- sure itís often episodic, but it never feels like the composition just darting around for the hell of it- there is most certainly flow & sonic story moving through-out the work.
I feel it would be a little dull to list all 40 players here and their various sonic tools- so instead I'll group them together- we have the Octandre Ensemble, this takes in sitar, numerous double basses, dulcimer, cornets, harmonium, percussion, conch, whistle & bowed wine glasses. Then we have the eight piece New London chamber choir. The four-piece Consortium 5- which takes in various pipes, crumhorns & Ocarinas. We have the six-piece Percím Percussion players, as well as violinist, vocal conductor, and general conductor.
The CD is split up into fourteen tracks- though these donít indicate true breaks/ separations- the whole thing flows, however erratic & shifting- so you have to take this in as whole fifty six-minute trip. Again to try & break the track into moment-by-moment review would be rather dull & pointless- so instead I'll talk about some of the places we move into- we begin with slow, quiet & circular sawing tones, which become more eerie & uneasy as sudden vocal shunts & hisses occur. We move on a blend of hovering horn, female hissing-to-harmonizing, pipe organ-like chug & playful knock 'n' scratch. Through to extremely dense & broodingly nightmarish blends of simmering horn, bass and drum work. Later we pared back to singsong children's voices blended with shifting horn honk Ďní breaths, sudden percussive darts & pile-ups, moving on the wavering & off-colour horn swoops. Towards the end of the work we move towards slowly rising & shifting rings & saws, darted with fragile vocalizing & shifting textured percussive grain, which move into string dirges alight with sad rising female harmonics. Really we move all over the place with this work.
Iíd say if you enjoy the more varied & playful work of someone like George Crumb, but with slightly more darting intent & moments of adventurous-to-at-times quite noise bound sound detail- I think youíll find The Fish that became the Sun (Songs of the Dispossessed) most worthy and rewarding.Roger Batty