Common Sense Composers' Collective: Spark (Innova Recordings - May 10 2019)

Common Sense Composers' Collective: Spark
(Innova Recordings - May 10, 2019)

Eight quartets
Composers: Marc Mellits; Dan Becker; John Halle; Belinda Reynolds; Melissa Hui; Ed Harsh; Carolyn Yarnell; Randall Woolf
Performers: Friction Quartet

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The collection of tracks on Spark showcase the range of the Common Sense Composers' Collective in eight pieces for string quartet. Alongside the compositions, the Oakland-based Friction Quartet displays impressive versatility, and ability to play with both virtuosity and restraint from a strongly rhythmic foundation.

Consisting of tracks by several different contemporary composers, the CD offers a broad pallet of styles and approaches. Marc Mellits' V: Five, from his String Quartet No. 3 (Tapas) is all mood and melody, and the Friction Quartet plays with delicacy and warm tones that illuminate the emotional and musical heart of the piece.

Dan Becker's Lockdown is a kinetic ride of inexorable rhythm and harmonic changes, with flourishes of melody that soar above it. John Halle's music is romantic in its sweeping range and scope - even cinematic in tone. The quartet seizes hold of the music through all its changes in tempo and mood with an energy both wild and harnessed. It's a standout track.

Melissa Hui's Map of Reality, in five parts, is ambitious in its scope, and gives the quartet a chance to flex their musical muscles. It begins with a jumpy, tense rhythm and a minimalist approach, with a measured control that makes it sing. The composition creates waves of sound that rise and ebb in energy and volume.

Carolyn Yarnell's dramatic is another standout track, beginning with a spare first movement. The second movement takes melodic elements of American folk music and weaves them into a moving musical narrative.
The Friction Quartet (image courtesy of their website)
Contemporary music truly comes alive with gifted musicians like the Friction Quartet, whose superb technique is woven into sensitive interpretation.

Not quite a school, a movement, or a tribe, the composers that decided to form the Common Sense Composers’ Collective in 1993 nevertheless share musical and professional dreams and values that find strength together. Now in its third decade, the Common Sense Composers’ Collective is comprised of Dan Becker, John Halle, Ed Harsh, Melissa Hui, Marc Mellits, Randall Woolf, Belinda Reynolds, and Carolyn Yarnell. The group, now its third decade, has created over 70 new works, released four albums, (with Spark as their fifth,) and produced five new music marathons (Opus415) in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Friction Quartet performing selections from Spark, an album of works by members of Common Sense Composers’ Collective: Dan Becker, Marc Mellits, John Halle, Carolyn Yarnell, Belinda Reynolds, Melissa Hui, Ed Harsh, and Randall Woolf, at Inn-fest, the annual Innova label showcase, held in the Bay Area, May 4-5, 2019