Birth of a manifesto
Dan Becker
Common Sense Ensemble
New Millennium Ensemble
Catalog Number: 
new classical
new music
music for dance

San Francisco, CA

Release Date: 
Mar 25, 2014
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
One Sheet: 

As composer Dan Becker’s debut solo CD, Fade is a manifesto of sorts, exploring his fascination with process in all its forms. “Not just musical ones,” he says, “but sociological, mathematical, and natural processes as well. I fancy I can almost ‘see’ them unfolding and whirling around me; all whizzing by, colliding, merging, often intersecting. I find great delight in this.”

Interspersed throughout the album is a set of five “ReInventions”, essentially “cover tunes” of five of JS Bach’s Inventions (played with cyborg-like panache by a Disklavier “player piano”). Becker asks the question: “What would happen if one injected some postminimal processes into the preexisting ones already embedded in the DNA of these Inventions?” These “ReInventions” are the result of that chemical reaction (think Nancarrow meets Bach on Reich’s stoop.)

Other more personal chamber works fill out the CD. The opener "Gridlock", Becker's most performed work and a predictable favorite with musicians and audiences alike, has been called by Kyle Gann a “virtual manifesto for postminimalist formalism." “Fade,” the title track, is something of a lullaby written for his yet-to-be born daughter. Becker’s preferred world of musical processes proves impressively capable of capturing the emotionally tentative, hesitant and fragile state that all adoptive parents-to-be understand.

“Keeping Time” and “A Dream of Waking” complete the disc, showing new angles and approaches to how process can be embodied in a musical composition. For in the end this concept of process, when explored deeply, expands to embrace notions of relationship and ultimately community. And for Becker this is a good place for any obsession to lead.

Becker is the founder and Artistic Director of the Common Sense Composers’ Collective, and is the current Chair of Composition at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.


“[I]ntensely energetic music … [T]here is an infectious joyousness to ‘Gridlock.’” [FULL ARTICLE]
Stephen Smoliar

"[B]rightly colorful and rhythmically incisive ... it sounds like it would be great fun to play." [FULL ARTICLE]
Steve Hicken

“Dan Becker … seeks to transpose the field of the natural sciences to the arts. [A] motorsport post-minimalist in his exuberant, abrasive sounds and great energy, [Becker’s pieces] recall certain works by Louis Andriessen or Steve Martland.” [FULL ARTICLE in Italian]
Filippo Focosi

"Fade is named after one of its tracks, yet it doesn’t begin to disclose the manic sense of drive present in much of the music. ... [W]orks that will make you consider skipping your morning coffee are the adrenaline-infused Gridlock, given a focused, enthusiastic performance by the Common Sense Ensemble, the second movement of Keeping Time, performed by The New Millennium Ensemble, and the final work, A Dream of Waking, for NME members Sunghae Anna Lim on violin, and Margaret Kampmeier on piano. ... Fade, falls to the other edge of Becker’s compositional style; it is gentle, delicate music that walks on eggshells, ideal for laying in a hammock on a warm summer day. Similarly, the first movement of Keeping Time is a slowly measured dance through sparkling layers of vibraphone, piano, bass clarinet and strings. The excellent production by Judith Sherman makes all of the evocative works on the album glow, and delivers a satisfying punch in just the right places." [FULL ARTICLE]
Alexandra Gardner

"Alternately angular and rhapsodic — and sometimes both at once — the music of San Francisco composer Dan Becker bursts out of speakers with the kind of alluring razzle-dazzle that most musicians would envy. The chamber works here are generally shaped by some kind of compositional process that sets the music in motion, yet the results are fluid and unpredictable, and the postminimalist harmonic language combines with communicative zeal to create music that is as inviting as it is lovely. Becker’s two chief modes are motoric, as in the sharp-edged 'Gridlock' or his imaginative Disklavier rewrites of Bach’s F-Major Invention, and ruminative, as in the slow-moving meditation 'Fade,' which is so lushly beautiful that it almost feels embarrassing to listen to. At the end of the disc, like a final display of fireworks comes 'A Dream of Waking,' a magnificent duo of violin and piano that melds both strains in a remarkable display of compositional virtuosity." [ARTICLE]
Joshua Kosman

"['Fade'] moves with tenderness and wonder as but four musicians set up flowing richness. ... 'Gridlock' contains effervescent, rippling energy traded between musicians as they perform melodic passages accented by unexpected bursts from a sonic spectrum as wide as the tuba's and the flute's pitches. ... [T]he release of Fade should broaden awareness of his works and his talent."
Bill Donaldson