A dash of Celtic, a jigger of classical and a pinch of the blues -- shake them up and you get music by composer, flutist and pennywhistle specialist, Susan Conant. Described as "earthy", a "landscape of expression" and "a pleasure to listen to", Conant's music is a heartfelt manifestation of her passion for playing and writing chamber music.
When Conant (who has years of experience as a landscape architect) moved to the Charleston area in 2008, she was entranced by the natural beauty of coastal South Carolina and immersed herself in studying the landscape. The featured work, "Lowcountry Suite", was inspired by those studies. The Suite opens with the primal, ethereal sounds of Marsh Song intended to evoke the changing colors of sunlight as it traverses the marsh. Ocean Fantasia depicts waves and water in constantly in motion until the music breaks into a soaring song of grandeur and vast open space. Estuary Dance ends the Suite with a bang, its two contrasting themes (one an Irish slip jig and the other a jazzy waltz) mimicking the frenzied push and pull of the tides against river currents.
But don't just listen to the Lowcountry Suite. There is so much more to discover on this album. If you are in the mood for melodic romance, try Gerda's Waltz, Conant's hearfelt tribute. Or listen to the creative ways in which Conant fuses Celtic and Classical music. Dialog for Flute and Violin is a mash-up of fiddle motifs, soaring melody and quirky rhythms. Gig Trio also toys with the juxtaposition of contrasting string and flute textures. But perhaps the most unusual track is the Dialog for Whistle and Violin where the pennywhistle and violin trade off chromatic motifs in a folksy, tone-bending style.
Each of the five pieces for solo flute requires masterful command of a different flute technique. They are all intriguing but the two that garner the most attention are Meditation and Fast Reel. Meditation uses the distinctive, mellow tone of the alto flute to its fullest as it develops a bluesy motif in a range of tone colors and voicings. In Fast Reel, the agressive articulations and lightning fast ornaments mimic a fiddle bow gone wild.
Conant is masterfully supported by award winning pianist, Lin Raymond, violinist Eden MacAdam-Somer and cellist Rafael Popper-Keizer. The album was recorded by John Weston at Futura Productions in Roslindale, MA.
Here are the liner notes for the album:
"Lowcountry Suite combines my passions for music and landscape. What better place to find inspiration than the magnificent South Carolina coast! In Fall, the marsh is at its most spectacular as the tiny white marshgrass flowers reflect the colors of sky and water. Marsh Song pays homage to this landscape of light; the piano ostinato provides a substrate over which the flute paints the changing colors of the marsh. Estuary Dance’s two contrasting rhythms (slip jig and jazz waltz) mimic the frenzied push and pull of tides against river currents. Writing Ocean Fantasia proved to be most difficult. Borrowing from Debussy and Ravel was a first step, but how to add my own voice? I imagined Sullivan's beach with its constantly changing landscape. I am awed by the scale and wildness of the ocean. The music recalls the perpetual movement of wind and water and the call of the gulls, but it is that feeling of awesome grandeur and of resolution that drives this piece to its culmination.
Suite for Solo Flute is inspired by the rich canon of single-line instrumental literature, particularly the works of Bach and Piazolla. Largo contrasts heartfelt romance with it’s ironic counterpart. Bounce playfully juggles melody and harmony against a jazzy, chromatic bass. Meditation’s breath-centered motifs grow out of a minor triad. The ornaments and articulations in Fast Reel mimic fiddle bowing. Partita is a more recent study in that genre where bass line, harmony and melody are covered in a single line. The Dialogs continue the duet series from my earlier disc, “A New Leaf”. These conversations and also Gig Trio explore traditional Celtic sounds in a classical context. Gerda’s Waltz is a strong tune dedicated to a strong woman, Gerda Conant, who’s fortitude, creativity, and honesty inform my life."
Please take a look at Conant's website to order copies of the disc, keep abreast of her appearances and learn more about her work.