Classical Modern Music

Carson Cooman is a composer of great output and special sensibilities. There is so much of his music I have not yet heard, yet what I have heard and reviewed on these pages is significantly worthwhile. One of the very best of the recent recordings is Liminal (Diversions 24161).

It is a 36-minute mini-album with three works represented. There is the brief but primal “Shoreline Rune” (2014) for string orchestra and harp, the Symphony No. 4 (Liminal) , and a brief work for organ, “Prism” (2003). The Slovak National Orchestra under Kirk Trevor does the honors for the orchestral works; Erik Simmons appears on organ for “Prism.” The performances are very good, as is the sound.

These three pieces work together to create a mood of mystery. “Shoreline Rune” begins the album with a slow and reflectively archaic feeling to it. As the composer states in the liners, it is as if one were standing on the shoreline experiencing an entire tide cycle but within a space of five minutes.

The centerpiece of the album is Cooman’s “Symphony No. 4,” which deals with climate change and the idea of liminality, being neither in a beginning state nor in a state of transformation, but in a state of ambiguity, something that our present experience of the climate may be said to occupy. The music reflects the diverse climatic regions on earth and their slow transformation. The piece hopes we may find the courage and fortitude to get through and if possible ameliorate the unfolding processes.

Musically the work has an expanded tonality and a dramatic dynamic that is eloquent and moving. The mood is both foreboding and hopeful, expressive in a masterful use of orchestral forces and modern in outlook. It is a work of great strength, deserving a hearing as a pinpoint symphonic work of our time.

The conclusion, “Prism,” forms a postlude to the symphony with mystically contemplative and ultimately heroically optimistic open voicings. It is perhaps a sound image of the universe set right, in a steady state, transcendent.

The music is most definitely an experience not to miss. Cooman establishes his voice, or one of his voices, in no uncertain terms and gives us a sonic journey both subtle and of great evocative power. Highly recommended.

—Grego Edwards