Inventive Expression In New Music | Kamala Sankaram: Crescent

Inventive Expression In New Music
Kamala Sankaram: Crescent
(Neuma Records / January 19, 2024)

Crescent is the first solo album from composer and performer Kamala Sankaram. The album takes as its theme the impact of human technologies on the natural world. 

Electro-acoustic composer Kamala Sankaram - Crescent

Sonically, it interweaves sounds of steam engines, helicopters, and electromagnetic static with field recordings from across New York State in both composed and improvised settings, along with vocals, percussion, and electronics. The result is a seamless and expressive flow. 

The song cycle Crescent is a showcase for Sankaram’s expressive singing and use of extended technique. As a vocalist, her voice has a bright quality, with a warm tone. 

The individual songs are evocative and atmospheric. A Brief History of Progress begins simply, with vocals, adding percussion, then layer after layer, ending in a kind of electronic cacophony. 

Poetry and spoken word alternate with singing, with and without effects. She creates a wide variety of textures that work not only as sound, but to add drama, pathos, and take listeners on an emotional journey. 

Kamala works with an idiosyncratic sensibility that, in Heat Map, turns a recitation of the rising temperatures, year by year, into high drama (as it should be), and the chemical composition of polyethylene into a compellingly urgent beat.

5 Rasas was originally commissioned by Works and Process at the Guggenheim as accompaniment to choreography by Preeti Vasudevan. The piece is structured around the five different rasas, or emotional states, of Indian classical art. Kamala builds the piece with chance operations, field recordings, and found sounds. To the mix, she adds electronic noise from WWII-era short wave radio.

The string quartet plays a theme that was originally composed as a theme for Iphigenia in the Shakespeare Theatre Company production of Ellen McLaughlin’s Oresteia. 

Personnel: 

  • Kamala Sankaram – voice, electronics, field recordings, compositions; Brian Shankar Adler – percussion (tabla, bombo leg├╝ero and found objects); Drew Fleming – voice (tracks 2, 4, & 7)
  • For 5 Rasas: Kamala Sankaram – voice, electronics; Andie Tanning – violin; Ludovica Burtone – violin; Joanna Mattrey – viola; Mariel Roberts – cello

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