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Valarie Morris — Transformations
((Not on label) VM049602, 1997, CD)

by Mike Ezzo, Published 1997-05-01

Transformations Cover art

Like an artist's sketchbook; that is, in essence, what Transformations presents itself as. Most of the titles were written for small groupings of winds, piano, etc., but are rendered simply on keyboard, utilizing samples imitative of the intended instrumentation. In the case where synthesizer was the instrumental medium of intent, it works well. Often, however, the stock timbres mar what could have been something more pleasing, or leave the music shy of completion. What may sound great played on an acoustic flute, usually requires lots of studio tweaking to transcend the sound of a mere sampled flute. Valarie's education and impressive musical background hold her in good stead — a graduate of Mills College, she proves thoroughly her compositional clout. The music is well constructed, displaying a keen ability for unifying that few rock musicians possess. It's just in the area of production and conception that I find things to be wanting. Some titles are only sketches, the bare basic bones of an idea, but bereft of enough effort in execution to make them successful. As befitting this kind of sampler, we run the gamut in styles. Of the thirty small-scale pieces, I would rate eight of them as really substantial. "Outzone" and "Do a Duet" are both clever and convincingly well-composed. "Fourths" is by far the strongest of any. "Cellular" is a serious work that would sound great in a chamber ensemble setting; "Space Song" and "Improv" are both effectively rendered synthesizer music, and as such are idiomatic for her instrument of choice. "African Island" portrays a good ear for percussion scoring. Again, acoustic percussion would have made all the difference in the world. Not out of any kind of purist motive, but simply for appropriateness. This album works more as a reference to the source material representing Valarie's compositional resumé. Perhaps this was intentional; she is a busy professional composer with much experience scoring soundtracks for theater and other projects. But for an actual recorded release, I would prefer a writer to conceptualize an entire homogeneous work, using acoustic instruments where appropriate.


Filed under: New releases, Issue 12, 1997 releases

Related artist(s): Valarie Morris

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