K. Leimer: Lesser Epitomes
Palace of Lights

Lesser Epitomes, Kerry Leimer's latest Palace of Lights collection, is characterized as “process music for active or passive listening” with its twenty-one pieces (organized in three suites and “indexed for random shuffle during replay”) “derived from the aleatoric reordering of discreet, compatible musical components in relationships that emulate typical theme and variation.” The central suite “Nine Approximations” is constructed using cello, viola and oboe; the framing pieces “Nonadaptive Layers” and “Naïve Music” supplement fragments of the former with signal reprocessing, field recordings (made in London, Paris, Venice, Florence, and Maui), and synthesized voices.

Now that the seventy-minute project's technical details have been addressed, we can turn our attention to the release's musical merits which are plentiful indeed. First off, don't be misled by the dry technical exegesis which in no way conveys the alluring sensuality of Leimer's haunting music. His sparsely arranged pieces are celestial settings as fragile as an evanescent oval cast by breath upon a windowpane. It's almost impossible not to be reminded of Arvo Pärt's similarly ascetic style when listening to the strings and oboes that quietly alternate in the third section of “Nonadaptive Layers” and surge so elegiacally in the fifth. “Nine Approximations” in particular evidences some of the neo-classical purity that characterizes Stravinsky works such as Symphony of Psalms (1930), Symphony in C (1940), and Symphony in Three Movements (1945), and the impact its nine wistful, vibrato-laden pieces have is stirring. The so-called “Naïve Music” departs from the first two works in expanding its sound into a milkier and noticeably processed realm where the oboe and strings swim in a ghostly electronic bath and where field recordings (water sounds, church bells) assume greater prominence.

May 2008