ARLENE SIERRA (b.1970): Volume One - Cicada Shell for Chamber Ensemble, Colmena for 14 Players, Ballistae for 13 Players (International Contemporary Ensemble; Jayce Ogren), Surrounded Ground for Clarinet, Piano and String Quartet (Charles Neidich [clarinet], Stephen Gosling [piano], Daedalus Quartet), 2 Neruda Odes for Soprano, Cello and Piano (Susan Narucki [soprano], Raman Ramakrishnan [cello], Gosling [piano]), Birds and Insects, Book 1 for Piano (Vassily Primakov).
Catalogue Number: 07N101
Description: A number of clearly defined elements, both musical and extramusical, appear to inform a good proportion of Arlene Sierra's output. There is a sense of graphic imagery and programmatic story-telling, from a background in the fine arts and dance: recurring motifs of natural sounds, or the structures and history of warfare: and a preoccupation with pristine clarity of texture and rhythmic momentum. Thus Cicada Shell refers both to a metaphor in a text on ancient Chinese battle tactics, with martial ostinati propelling the music forward, and to the frenetic insect energy of actual cicadas. Birds and Insects also employs ostinati, and music of restless physical motion, while Colmena (Beehive) combines impressionistic haze with incessant microscopic repetitive activity. Surrounded Ground and Ballistae vividly describe, respectively, military strategies (from Sun Tzu) and the construction and operation of a battle catapult, and so strong is the sense of narrative and precise imagery, allied to rhythmic physicality, that both sound like candidates for modern dance pieces (although they were not written expressly for this purpose).