Extended Family

Extended Family

No place like home for family, faith, and frailty
Neil Rolnick
Neil Rolnick
Bob Gluck
Catalog Number: 
new classical
new music
string quartet

Troy, NY

Release Date: 
Jan 25, 2011
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
One Sheet: 

Family, faith and human frailty. And all very personal. Neil Rolnick takes on some serious topics with this new CD. But as you'll expect if you know his earlier work, he comes out of it with a polyglot mashup of music which moves from solemn beauty to manic dance, from memorable melodies to digital madness.

In the title track, the string quartet ETHEL delivers a powerful rendering of a work chronicling Rolnick's experiences with his family at the time of his mother's death. In Faith, pianist and improviser Bob Gluck, with Rolnick on laptop, takes us through a high powered musical exploration of what it means to believe, or not. To round it out, Rolnick ends with MONO Prelude, a solo performance for spoken voice and laptop which chronicles his own experience of hearing loss. Better hear this now.

Since he moved to New York City in 2002, Neil Rolnick's music has been receiving increasingly wide recognition and numerous performances both in the US and abroad. A pioneer in the use of computers in performance, beginning in the late 1970s, Rolnick has often included unexpected and unusual combinations of materials and media in his music. Though much of Rolnick's work has been in areas which connect music and technology, and is therefore considered in the realm of "experimental" music, his music has always been highly melodic and accessible. Whether working with electronic sounds, improvisation, or multimedia, his music has been characterized by critics as "sophisticated," "hummable and engaging," and as having "good senses of showmanship and humor." Rolnick teaches at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, where he was founding director of the iEAR Studios.


Three divergent works come to light … "Extended Family" … has depth and dignified stature, movement and motor-liveliness … "Faith" features improvising pianist Bob Gluck [and] Rolnick's electronic complements bring a nice timbral contrast and second line counter-commentary. "MONO Prelude" … is a moving account of something that someone with a musical life-sentence would (and does) find traumatic and harrowing. This piece is very successful as narrative. Rolnick writes music that speaks naturally. The unfoldings of sound events and cadences are like conversations between good friends. I've grown fond of this one. It may not change the musical world but it will give your life a little life through the hearing of it. Pretty great performances of interesting music. That can never be a bad thing.

- Grego Edwards, Gapplegate Reviews

“[Extended Family], ably performed by the ETHEL Quartet, is, apart from the necessarily mournful 'Loss' movement, blithe, evocative and therapeutic.”

- Byzantion, MusicWeb International

"A genre bending mash up that takes contemporary classic to its arts council extremist tip, it’s good to let professors run wild every so often and show us they aren’t dodgy and are the gateway to fucksaw demonstrations after all."

- Chris Spector, Midwest Record

Per un compositore abituato a lavorare con strumenti elettronici, scrivere per un quartetto d’archi non è la cosa più semplice del mondo. Neil Rolnick dà invece di nuovo prova, in questo nuovo lavoro scritto per l’Ethel Quartet e intitolato Extended Family, di trovarsi pienamente a suo agio con gli strumenti ad arco, che guidati dalla sua penna suonano con grande naturalezza e fluidità. In questo brano Rolnick, ispirandosi alla sua numerosa e variopinta famiglia, raggiunge anche un notevole livello di profondità espressiva, in particolare nel commovente e nobile ricordo della defunta madre, così come, per converso, nella vivace e pittoresca evocazione dei suoi nipotini che giocano e scorrazzano per casa. Più tipicamente rolnickiani, ma non per questo meno interessanti, sono gli altri due brani del cd, Faith per pianoforte e laptop computer, e MONO prelude, per computer e voce: entrambi ritmicamente vivaci, swinganti, pieni di brio e di uno humour irresistibile e contagioso.

- Filippo Focosi, Kathodik

"Extended Family, for string quartet, is a musical family tree. The 'Gene Pool' presents the grandparents, two musical identities that serve as the DNA for the remainder of the piece. These family elders are bright, with an unsurprising chord progression. This progression returns in 'Siblings' as new ideas are crafted from the originals ... 'Cousins & Uncles & Aunts' begins to abruptly alter the material with tempo and playstyle changes ... What results is a piece that is something straight ahead and sometimes shifting and unexpected."
Kraig Lamper