A sound-mirror held to the world
Robert Carl
Hartt Contemporary Players
Jerome Pruett
Laura Loewen
Mark Engebretson
Michael Menapace
Percussion 20-20
Robert Black
Robert Carl
Catalog Number: 
new classical
spoken word

Hartford, CT

Release Date: 
Jan 21, 2003
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
One Sheet: 

It's easy to wax exultant about Robert Carl's Roundabout—and not simply because Carl's work represents an all-too-rare confluence of Modernist rigor with Postmodernist vigor. Nor is it because (once again norm-defyingly) he excels at incorporating vernaculars ranging from flamenco to jazz without putting so much as a single note anywhere in the general vicinity of cliché's way. It's not even because, as writer and composer Kyle Gann first observed, Roundabout abounds with life—human and non. Musical brujo that he is, Carl conjures the spirits of everything from whales (or are they planets?) to the bacteria who promulgated Lorca's decay and the sound of midday traffic. After he has oriented these spirits, and only after, he forces them, molecule by molecule to manifest sonically through the surfaces of various and sundry percussion instruments, the voices of tenors, reciters and sopranos, the bells of saxophones, of contrabasses—even, as on the incomparable "Lesgedowdaheah," an entire eleven-piece funk band. 

In fact, what makes Roundabout such a pleasure pump is all of the above, combined with Carl's talent for harnessing the energies of his own unique spirit. Carl's command of formal approaches, combined with his love of musical vernaculars and understanding of sound—as well as silence, which he deploys like an orchestra unto itself—enable him to break whatever rule he pleases with elegance, grace, and, above all, the ability to amaze. Consider the aforementioned "Lesgedowdaheah." Initially, Carl leads us to believe that he's putting some sort of atonal hoodoo on the funk band. In fact, he is, but in a manner that's positively Dionysian, if not downright orgiastic. In the end, he creates a new world, systematically turning our expectations—all of them—upside-down in the process. That, friends, is reason enough for exultation in itself. Robert Carl teaches at the Hartt School, Connecticut 



Robert Carl studied composition with the likes of Iannis Xenakis and Ralph Shapey. His music is performed throughout the US and Europe and he has written for soloists Evelyn Glennie, percussion, Robert Black, contrabass, Kathleen Supove, piano and John Bruce Yeh, clarinet, among others. He is also co-director of the Extension Works new music ensemble in Boston. Roundabout played by renowned double bass player Robert Black delivers a dark foreboding atmosphere with hauntingly beautiful melodies weaving in and out on the double bass. Reminiscent of Barry Guys ethereal compositions from his CD Ceremony. This work, which reflects on the sound and techniques of Indian sarang playing brings across a more ethnic world music feel. The electronics synthesized on a Synclavier II keyboard blend in nicely with the timbre of the double bass acting on drone principles. 

One of the most stunning pieces on the CD although the end of the piece takes one by surprise! Other pieces on the CD reflect various other influences from jazz to Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the bumblebee. Each piece offers an exciting and different theme. The second piece El Canto de los Asesinados encorporates electronically altered dog barks and simple Do-Re-Mi melodies and is written for tenor, shaman, soprano saxophone and Hartt contemporary players and is a chaotic mix of various styles mixed into one. Quite theatrical in feeling. The wide range of styles and that Robert Carl covers in the compositions on this CD reflects his diversity as a composer. Tracks 4 to 13 are a set of Haiku poems chosen from their sonic imagery and each on wrapped in appropriate electronic interpretations of the verse. Carl himself plays a short improvisation on the Shakuhachi (Japanese flute) in between two of the poems. Lesgedowdaheah is an exciting and often aggressive improvisation by the Hartt Comtemporary players, which leads into Die Berliner Hornisse, which is an up-date on Rimsky-Kosakovs Flight of the bumblebee in 20 century terms played on the saxophone (acting as the Hornet), piano and voice. An interesting interpretation develops with various contemporary techniques used by the players to develop the piece such as sax multiphonics and the pianist playing on the insides of the piano. Last but not least in this epic journey is a piece called Nell Miller Op.1 which is an interview with Carl's grandmother where she talks about the musical conditions in rural Alabama. The music provides a type of silent movie-type soundtrack to the speech. This piece perhaps gives us an incite in to where Carl's background and influences may have sprung from. - JR


You can't get more Totalistic than that. - Gimbel