Flexible Music: FM

cover image

Flexible Music's debut recording features several premieres written for the ensemble by Ryan Streber, Orianna Webb, Nico Muhly, and Vineet Shende alonside the work that inspired the group's formation, Louis Andriessen's Hout. Flexible Music is : Eric Huebner, piano; Tim Ruedeman, sax; Haruka Fujii, percussion; Daniel Lippel, guitar.

"The quartet known as Flexible Music derives its name from the title of the Nico Muhly piece that the group plays on its new disc. Like that score, the programme's other works by Louis Andriessen, John Link, Ryan Streber, Orianna Webb, and Vineet Shende take percussion, piano, saxophones, and guitars through fascinating textural, rhythmic, and colouristic terrain. The results are varied and vital, a feast of intimate musical possibilities. The disc's springboard is Andriessen's beguiling Hout, which has been recorded by several other ensembles. Dutch for "wood", the piece is a canon that finds the instruments chasing each other at pell-mell speed, occassionally stopping in their tracks amid the hypnotic activity, sensual gestures and group exclamation points. Muhly's Flexible Music is exactly that. Inspired by video games, its energy is relentless, with swirling, punching ideas momentarily relaxed with lyrical lines. In Link's Around the Bend, something surprising is always lurking, from exotic tambourine sighs to quickly shared fragments, dreamy piano lines and sudden outbursts. An electric guitar broods in Streber's Closing Time, which is animated through saxophone flights and feisty interaction. Tidbits emerge from hushed moments, and the saxophone and guitar have extended solos before the music fades away. The aura veers from the frisky to the still in Webb's Sustenance Variations, whose punchy chords and confrontational episodes find a keen balance amid lines of haunting poetry. Shende pays homage to James Brown in Throw Down or Shut Up, whose vigorous activity includes vocal grunts, riffs, shifting rhythms and a sassy finish. The members of Flexible Music are undaunted by the repertoire's formidable demands. Haruka Fujii (percussion), Eric Huebner (piano), Timothy Ruedeman (saxophones), and Daniel Lippel (guitars) appear to relish the sense of discovery that these composers have invested in their captivating creations." -Donald Rosenberg, Gramophone August 2009

New Music Box
"Aggressiveness, virtuosity, and seamless ensemble playing are obviously Flexible Music hallmarks, and these strengths are revealed immediately with a blistering account of Louis Andriessen's Hout, the piece that one imagines was the catalyst that brought the quartet together. While calling any work a tour de force may seem terribly cliche, it's really the only term that aptly describes Hout. It's a relentless piece, beginning with what seems like a never-ending canon at the 16th note. From there, the work never really lets the ensemble take a breath, but the players of Flexible Music handle the music's technical and ensemble demands so well that they seem like the musical equivalent of deep sea pearl divers. On an album dedicated to introducing us to Flexible Music and showing off the breadth of the group's abilities, Hout displays a monolithic quality that seems to have wielded a tremendously powerful influence over each composer's approach to writing for the ensemble. Works such as Vineet Shende's Throw Down or Shut Up and Ryan Streber's Closing Time use many of the same devices -- virtuosic instrumental writing and tricky composite line ensemble pass-offs that make Hout so successful, even if the composers' language is different. And Orianna Webb's Sustenance Variations, though given to fleeting moments of repose, is never far away from the aggressiveness that permeates the entire album. Of the new works written for Flexible Music included on the disc, John Link's Around the Bend does the best job of exploiting some of the more unique color combinations of the ensemble. In the present new music milieu of countless oddly staffed ensembles, Flexible Music has one of the more exciting combinations of instruments and probably one of the most, um, flexible out there in terms of their ability to capture such a broad range of sounds and styles."—Brian Sacawa, New Music Box, August 2009

Buy Links