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Michael Byron — Bridges of Pearl and Dust
(Cold Blue CB0057, 2019, CD)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2019-11-12

Bridges of Pearl and Dust Cover art

For a number of years, composer Michael Byron has been on Exposé’s radar, beginning with his 2003 full length release Awakening at the Inn of the Birds, and more recently 2019’s Fabric for String Noise and the 2015 single In the Village of Hope, always completely surprising music (all are completely stylistically different) but thoroughly excellent. His second release of 2019, Bridges of Pearl and Dust, is technically a single, but it’s nearly sixteen minutes in length. The piece is a complex, contrapuntal and polyrythmic workout for four vibraphones, all performed by Los Angeles based percussionist Ben Phelps. The piece is at once busy and peaceful, a tightly interwoven fabric of sounds that may seem random on a casual listen, but surely is tightly and beautifully composed, shifting melodic colors sparkling from the heavens in a perfect performance, and there are many masterful points where key changes occur that underscore the brilliance of it all. If the listener allows themselves to be immersed in the wonder of it all, it may be reminiscent of a soft suite of Javanese gamelan, though there is little cadence here, it just flows throughout very naturally. The listener can choose to pick out the four vibraphone parts if they like, but it’s never completely clear which parts are leading and which are following, perhaps none of them are doing either, but from a listener’s standpoint it all works together like a finely tuned machine, offering a variety of different views to the core of the overall texture. Another comparison might be with La Monte Young’s Well Tuned Piano, though slowed down and truncated. Any way one experiences the sound, Bridges of Pearl and Dust has a lot to offer the listener that welcomes a challenge, though it must be restated that what’s on offer here is completely listenable, and quite beautiful.


Filed under: New releases, 2019 releases

Related artist(s): Michael Byron

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