I imagine that Gorton enjoys a good joke. In the landscape portrait for piano quintet, Fosdyke Wash , a sighing cello part is marked “like distant agricultural machinery.” At that point, the cello sounds like a mewling chainsaw at a far remove. Starting calmly over gently sustained piano pitches (using an ebow), a scordatura quartet (some strings are tuned to different partials) progresses from a gentle fabric of held tones into a chorale suggesting Dowland’s Lachrimae or the descent which closes Strauss’ Alpensinfonie.
If Fosdyke Wash is calm, the other works are not. Austerity Measures II chaotically tumbles rambunctious string quartet with the multiphonically inclined Howarth-Redgate oboe. Its abrasive density is built from a combination of pieces: Passacaglia , a violin and cello duo, Cadence, a viola and violin duo, and Gorton’s Third String Quartet (it’s not clear whether Cadence and Passacaglia together do in fact create the Third ). The frenetic 2nd Sonata for Cello requires concurrent electronic manipulation of excerpts from the [First] Sonata for Solo Cello where live and recorded cello pile up to create complex simultaneities.
Orfordness is another musical landscape portrait. These five movements for piano and tape consider unusual occurrences at Orfordness, a former military base on the Suffolk, UK, coast, where a UFO visit may have occurred. Folded into the piano’s halting music, we hear officers chronicling the “The Rendlesham Forest Incident,” Britain’s so-called Roswell event.