Reviews of Mythical Spaces
“…this is an intriguing disc of electroacoustic music. Steven Kemper (b1981) is Assistant Professor of Music and Technology at the Mason Gross School at Rutgers University and a former pupil of the late Elliot Schwartz (1936-2016). The works presented include a suite for prepared piano (The Seven Stars, 2012), a brief ‘fixed media electroacoustic’ piece, Breath (2015, originally composed as a film accompaniment), and two duos for electronics and acoustic instruments: Mythical Spaces, with percussion (2010), and Lament, with flute (2015). Most intriguing is In illo tempore (2012, rev 2017), a quartet reworking themes from Monteverdi’s 1610 Mass, scored for saxophone, bassoon and two musical ‘robots’, the Automated Monochord Instrument (AMI) and Cylindrical Aerophone Robotic Instrument (CARI). These electronica provide the base for the wind soloists to develop the thematic material in unexpected directions…Where Kemper is at his best is in the three works juxtaposing standard instruments with electronics, whether In illo tempore or the title-track, Mythical Spaces, the percussion textures coming closest perhaps to those artificially generated. That said, Lament, the flute part beautifully played by Wayla Chambo (for whom it was written), steals the show.”
“…Regardless of the format, Kemper was interested in demonstrating a sense of ”liveness” throughout—i.e., he was concerned with presenting all of the works in a manner that would highlight their relationship to gestural performativity. Kemper seems to have explored form successfully, wherein his electronics demonstrate their own distinct musical identity, while complementing and sometimes interacting with instrumental source material…Overall, Kemper demonstrates a controlled and refined approach when mixing and matching electronics with instrumental material…”
“With his musical thought, [Kemper] opens doors and windows to see infinity and once he “ejects” us, he helps us to reflect on the mythical aspects of human beings and nature. Not only that. Kemper has a way of confronting the composition as if it were an instant message, which not only seeks, but also finds magnificent melodies that have a certain intrinsic and rhythmic rhythm. The delicious percussion [on the title track, Mythical Spaces] delivers the spiritual character and free expressionism of the composer. A disc that projects new ideas to conceive the musical creation.” (translated from Catalan by Google Translate)
“…This is cutting edge in the sense that it is experimenting with new media in combination with more traditional media (and simple electronics is now “traditional media” having been superseded by the new fangled). The actual sound of this music seems to inhabit a rather spare sound world akin perhaps to that of late Morton Feldman but with more brevity. These pieces last from 1.5-10 minutes on average and demand some concentration on the part of the listener. Think maybe a cross between Feldman, Webern and say Subotnick.
Now one could conceivably play this music at a low volume in the manner of so-called “ambient” music. There are not many dynamic changes here to take you away from that sort of reverie. But that does not really seem to be the composer’s intention. These are concentrated little essays, each seeming to explore the parameters of its context, fixed media, live instruments, robotic media, and combinations of these…This is music which requires some serious concentration from the listener. Hearing/seeing this live might provide some additional aspects due to these strange electronic/robotic instruments but the point here seems to be one of an inner voyage which, if you focus you listening energy, transports you into this composer’s imaginary spaces. Whether you will enjoy this or not is difficult to say but it is certainly worth the effort.”