Steve Peters: The Webster Cycles
Cold Blue

The trombone's natural sonorities are so evocative and suggestive, it's a wonder more solo works aren't composed for it. Listening to J.A. Deane's six-trombone realization of Steve Peters' The Webster Cycles (composed when he was in college, it's a single-movement, open-ended work that can be performed with wind instruments and/or voices), it's hard not to think of foghorns piercing the mist, their muffled tones originating from spatially dispersed locations.

Peters composed the score by selecting words from a Webster's dictionary which were then used as to define “pitch sequences or melodic phrases” the performer executes within the duration of a single breath. The sequences are actually grouped into seven sections which may be performed in any order so long as the order of phrasing within each section is retained. However, as the listener is aware of little of such detail during the work's performance, The Webster Cycles can be enjoyed on purely musical terms for its becalmed ambiance and sensuality. The music is slow but not displeasingly so; one quickly attunes oneself to the half-hour piece's measured unfurl, and the steady pacing enables one to monitor the staggered layering of Deane's overdubbed trombones and better savour the subtle shifts in volume and pitch, not to mention the reverberant sustain that trails the notes as they fade away. Peters' release is the latest addition to Cold Blue's always arresting series of distinctive CD singles.

May 2008