San Francisco, CA
When Edward Munch painted "The Scream" he wasn't listening to Belinda Reynolds's music. On the contrary. If he had been, he might have come up with “The Sigh” or perhaps “The Swoon.”
This music is suspiciously easy on the ears — almost painfully enjoyable — with about as much Angst as you'd get on an average day in San Francisco, her adoptive hometown (she grew up in a Texas Air Force family). Her music appeals directly to the heart without beating around any emotional bushes. No frills. No long titles. It is by turns dreamy, propulsive, and buoyant; Post-Minimal and Pre-something else.
As composer and critic Kyle Gann wrote in Chamber Music Magazine, “[Reynolds’s music] stands out for its elegant polish, the persuasive pacing of its metamorphosis, the complete absence of false steps or miscalculations.”
COVER features unfaltering, even elegiac, performances by some of today’s top players, including American Baroque, Citywinds, and New Millennium Ensemble. There are also intimate works for woodwind trio, for piano and percussion, for guitar, and for clarinet and cello. Long known for her involvement with the Common Sense Composers’ Collective, Reynolds teaches and writes in San Francisco. COVER is the first recording devoted exclusively to her music.
SOUTH FLORIDA SUN SENTINAL
Belinda Reynolds' music is that genuine rarity, a melodic, approachable voice with a firmly individual profile and 21st century edge. In this collection of works for modest chamber forces, the San Francisco-based composer's style bears the ceaseless energy of her "Post-Minimalist" idiom. Yet, though the emphasis on rhythmic impetus could easily become monotonous, it never does, since Reynolds deftly avoids exact repetition and keeps the contrapuntal plates spinning with a verve, intelligence and spirited interplay that hold the listener's interest. Cover, for flute, cello, and piano, balances long, pastoral lines against a driving Glassian pulse, the music deriving its tension from vaulting through several keys. Both Solace and Circa are scored for small period-instrument Baroque group; the latter work is straightforward in its elegant vigor and evocative charm. Solace, for flute, oboe, viola de gamba and harpsichord, offers something different: while buoyant in its contrapuntal neo-Baroque bustle, the metallic harpsichord and jabbing asymmetric accents throw an unsettling subversion into the surface 17th century graces. Similarly the rapt lyric quality of Yawp for solo guitar develops tension from its irregular counterpoint. The welter of intricate lines builds up a considerable head of steam, and is tackled with panache by guitarist Sergio Puccini. Turns for wind trio offers a pointillist cool-jazz touch. Dust, a somber elegy for clarinet and cello written in the wake of 9-11, plumbs a surprising depth of pensive rumination within six minutes. All performances are first-class by the various ensembles and artists, recorded with great presence and impact under the composer's supervision. Belinda Reynolds is a greatly gifted young composer and her wonderfully clever and compelling music is highly recommended.
by Lawrence A. Johnson
When I heard Play, the work inspired by a game she plays with her students on her new disc, I found my ear coyly charmed in a way I was not expecting. But the rest of the disc might serve as required listening for composers who fear that writing for amateur players will buff the edge off of the skill and inventiveness they might display in the rest of their work. Seems the opposite is true, at least in Reynolds's case. The album's title track has a mysterious, fairytale quality to the opening flute line, and though the cello and piano pull things down a slightly darker path, the music finds itself cycling around again, not quite down the same path, but through similar trees.
by Molly Sheridan
TIME OUT NEW YORK
Compared to those musical Marco Polos who scan the horizon for something new, Belinda Reynolds demonstrates a perhaps more profound bravery by staking out her own paths through established musical landscapes. The results are impressive both for the innovation and the carefully considered polish her music displays. Generally speaking, Reynolds’s works strategically use repetitive, often intricate rhythmic structures to elicit a wide range of emotional responses, from disorientation and melancholy to coy delight. None of the seven chamber pieces on this new disc breaks the ten-minute mark. Cover is a corkscrewed aural fall down the rabbit hole, with the misty delicacy of the flute line drawn into darker waters by the cello and piano. Solace and Circa, both for period-instrument consort, stand out for their energetic reflection of new ideas off of established frameworks. These three tracks alone are more than worth the album’s purchase price. Depending on your interest in subtle development, you may find Yawp for guitar and Turns for woodwind trio overly tedious or the perfect companions. Dust is a September 11 memorial turned inward toward something private, introspective and vital. It doesn’t try to say everything out loud, and thereby succeeds where similar attempts have failed. advertisement Adding no small measure of sparkle to this collection are its universally high-caliber performances. The New Millennium Ensemble and American Baroque in particular offer nuanced readings so assured that they exude confidence without sacrificing an underlying spontaneity.
by Molly Sheridan
...that rare, lush gray area where the cerebral and the naturally, simply beautiful not only coexist, but dance about as lovers do.
by Mark Keresman
Although Belinda Reynolds' name sounded vaguely familiar to me (perhaps due to her frequent contributions to NewMusicBox), I had not previously heard any of the San Francisco-based composer's music. Only a few minutes into the first track of her CD entitled Cover, I was wondering how this oversight had occurred. The disc opens with the title track, scored for flute, cello and piano. A whirlwind tour through multiple tonalities, this trio is a prime example of Reynolds' post-minimalist aesthetic. Although her works frequently rely on repetitive patterns and syncopated rhythms, their coolly reserved outer shell barely masks an inner tempest of raw emotion and passion. Reynolds has perfected a unique brand of visceral minimalism that wears its heart on its sleeve. Solace is the first of a pair of works on this disc for Baroque ensemble. It starts simply, as if the instruments (Baroque flute, Baroque oboe, viola da gamba and harpsichord) are tentatively initiating a conversation. As the piece progresses and the instruments begin to sound more comfortable with each other, their energetic contrapuntal lines intertwine before the exchange ultimately dissipates. Middle Eastern and Spanish tinges recall the keyboard sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti. The Latin flavor continues with the guitar solo Yawp, masterfully performed by Sergio Puccini. Play, for piano and two percussionists, quickly became my favorite work on the recording. I was surprised to realize (courtesy of Kyle Gann's typically insightful notes) that the material for each section was based on a game Reynolds uses with her students in which tunes are fashioned from simple words. Here the melodies spell out CABBAGE, BED, and EDGE. Atypical rhythmic groupings prevent the hypnotically static harmonies from becoming tedious. Turns and Dust again showcase the concept of discourse between instruments. The latter work, for clarinet and cello, was written shortly after September 11, 2001. Reynolds manages to craft a touching cenotaphic memorial without resorting to garish theatricality. The disc concludes with another piece for Baroque instruments, this time replacing the oboe with a violin. Circa reverberates with nervous, kinetic energy. What makes this music sound modern and unique is the composer's gift for infusing an inherently mechanistic technique with human qualities. It is this flair for personification that allows Belinda Reynolds to surpass all of the minimalist imitators and enter a class of her own.
by Carol Minor
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
The music of San Francisco composer Belinda Reynolds gives new meaning to the phrase "deceptively simple." The seven chamber works on this beautiful CD tend to begin from obvious premises -- a repetitive rhythmic groove, a collection of familiar tonal harmonies -- but then Reynolds takes them in new directions, and the seemingly straightforward turns strange and subversive. Never threatening -- Reynolds' music is nothing if not amiable, and its surface appeal only encourages a listener to explore more deeply. And because the instrumental textures are relatively spare -- a duet for cello and clarinet, a guitar solo, or a piece for a small ensemble of early-music players -- the music's secrets are often hiding in plain sight. The music sounds like a hybrid of Steve Reich's early minimalism with the suave boulevard charm of Poulenc, and the effect is marvelous.
by Joshua Kosman