Darmststadt with palm trees? Or Silicon Valley incubator for musical overachievers? One thing is for sure; these six graduate composition students attending Stanford University find themselves in a fertile breeding ground to develop their craft and push the boundaries of Modernism a few months into the future.
Each year they present a series known coyly as <541> and each year these dazzling performances are documented and released by innova. This is the fourth volume and shows how the young acolytes (working under the auspicious wings of Brian Ferneyhough, Mark Applebaum and others) are evolving.
The fact that the music doesn’t sound particularly West Coasty comes as no surprise since the composers have traveled a long way to be there; from Europe, Mexico, and Argentina as well as across the US. The inspirations for their works too are far-flung. The music is thankfully easier to listen to than it probably was to create, and the colors and gestures certainly don’t require a degree to be relished.
Matching the composers’ brilliant futures are the astonishing Bay Area performers who play as though the notes are leaping off the (dense) pages.