Drenching music
Mary Ellen Childs
Pat O’Keefe
Laura Harada
Michelle Kinney
Jacqueline Ultan
Peter O'Gorman
Catalog Number: 
new classical
new music
music for dance

Duluth, MN

Release Date: 
Jan 29, 2013
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
Mary Ellen Childs: WreckiTunes Album Page
Song TitleTimePrice
2.Engine Room03:53$0.99
3.Wreck Theme04:28$0.99
5.First Wave, Pt. 102:03$0.99
6.First Wave, Pt. 203:24$0.99
7.Spirit Duet (After Kolokol)02:42$0.99
10.Tha Lake03:03$0.99
12.Second Wave01:28$0.99
13.The Box03:09$0.99
15.Duet for Wreck06:54$0.99
16.The Gathering04:13$0.99
18.The Abyss01:14$0.99
One Sheet: 

Commissioned by Minnesota’s Black Label Movement dance company, Mary Ellen Childs’ score for Wreck, like many of her works, finds itself grounded in the kinetic movement of the body itself and creates a cohesive whole, even though the dance for which it was written is not a narrative work. Set on an ore boat sinking in Lake Superior, the performance presents the crew gathered in the last airtight compartment of the vessel. Childs began work when much of the choreography was completed, and so she approached it like a film score, creating evocative sound worlds that would convey the full range of expressive possibilities the story would evoke—moments of joy, reflection, anxiety, fear and everything else that a life whose minutes are ticking away might go through.

Perhaps this soundtrack approach is why the work stands so strongly on its own, from the low, urgent bass and scrawling, scratched violin of opener “Anat” through the pulsing, gamelan-esque bells and percussion of “Spirit Duet” and the clockwork tintinnabulation that opens “The Box” before ending with the ghostly, mournful emptiness of “The Abyss.”

Childs’ score won the 2008 Sage Award for outstanding music for dance and Dance Magazine wrote of the performance, “Childs’ score, which sounds like a soundtrack for some noir thriller infected by the driving ostinato of Steve Reich, carves out a menacing soundscape that drives Wreck to its very last gasp.”

In addition to her many multi-media works, Childs is well known for her “visual percussion” pieces for her percussion group CRASH, in which she incorporates the movements of the bodies of the performers. Childs has received commissions from the Kronos Quartet, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Kitchen, Other Minds Festival, Chamber Music America, Opera America and the Walker Art Center, among others.  She has received artist fellowships from the McKnight Foundation, the Bush Foundation and the Minnesota State Arts Board. Recent works include Air for the male vocal ensemble Cantus, Unfettered, a solo string bass piece for Robert Black (Bang On A Can All-Stars), Parterre for QNG, a recorder collective based in Germany.  CDs of her work include Kilter (XI label) and Dream House (innova). She was named United States Artist Friends Fellow in 2011.


"The cinematic eighteen-part suite is all the more haunting for its relentless suspense: while there are moments of sheer horror, and even black humor, they take a back seat to tension. The Minnesota-based cast of musicians ... plays with an understated, singleminded intensity to match the music. ... After a storm theme with the drums and cymbals crashing, a chilly calm sets in. Have the remaining crew been able to summon help? Or have they decided to meet their fate with a resigned stoicism, even finding the strength within them to console each other? The answer doesn’t make itself clear almost until the end, when the bass clarinet takes over one of Childs’ many intricate polyrhythms. As they diverge or converge, Childs’ haunting, terse melodies offer a quiet salute to courage in the face of unspeakable fear. It’s one of the best albums of the year in any style of music, out now from Innova." [FULL ARTICLE]

"[U]ndoubtedly very fine dance music, and the drums and driving energy at the opening and further on make for something which lends itself perfectly to dynamic movement. … The upward glissandi of The Box make for an intriguingly disturbing experience which perhaps harks back to the drowning of Wozzeck. … My favourite moments are the infinite soundscapes of the final The Abyss, and in particular the tintinnabulations of Spirit Duet." [FULL ARTICLE]
Dominy Clements