Kenji Bunch: Boiling Point - chamber works / Alias Chamber Ensemble

Album Summary

>Bunch, Kenji [Viola] : String Circle 1, for viola & string quartet
>Bunch, Kenji [Viola] : Drift, for clarinet, viola & piano
>Bunch, Kenji [Viola] : 26.2, for violin, viola, cello & horn
>Bunch, Kenji [Viola] : Luminaria, for violin & harp
>Bunch, Kenji [Viola] : Boiling Point, for string quartet, bass & drum set
Performers Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Composer Kenji Bunch has been attracting much attention lately, both nationally and abroad. Also a concert violist and bluegrass performer, his music offers an eclectic mix of roots music, modern rock and jazz - but mostly within the context of sophisticated classical form. The title piece, Boiling Point, (featuring a teakettle!), begins gently before coming to a hard-rock-style "boil". The five movements of String Circle flirt with various types of classic roots music (ragtime, blues, country) - yet you know a classical voice is at work. Three other fascinating works round out the program. The Grammy nominated ALIAS Chamber Ensemble is a forward looking group of 11 musicians (strings, winds, harp, etc.) that cultivates an "out of the box" approach to their programming.

American Record Guide, March / April 2013
Kenji Bunch is a composer who combines the more or less standard classical chamber string group with recognizable American southern and traditional musical styles. His String Circle is a perfect example; with movements titled 'Lowdown', 'Shuffle Step', and 'Porch Picking'. The pieces are well written and they manage not to sound corny.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Steve and Judy Turner Hall, Blair School of Music, Vand.



Reviews

A composer to watch to be sure!
Kenji Bunch has emerged as one of the most engaging, influential, and prolific American composers of his generation. Hailed by the New York Times as “A Composer To Watch” and cited by Alex Ross in his seminal book “The Rest Is Noise,” Mr. Bunch’s unique blend of wit, exuberance, lyricism, unpredictable stylistic infusions, and exquisite craftsmanship has brought acclaim from audiences, performers, and critics alike. This new CD featuring some of Bunch's chamber music is interesting and exciting! Bunch's vocabulary is tonal and inclusive of several styles that become his own unique blend. The composer is a very fine violist and this background shows in the very upbeat and interesting "String Cycle" featuring his won take on five different takes on some culturally idiomatic string playing, such as you would hear in country fiddle and bluegrass. The trio "Drift" for clarinet, viola and piano is quite a different deal. Inspired by the feeling of loss of clarity as one falls asleep, this fascinating and "dreamy" work uses a piece of melody that weaves its way through the instrumental combinations until it gets lost in the softest of harmonics, trills and piano chords. This is a very fine work! Similarly, "26.2" is based on an interesting premise: that of the distance in a marathon run and inspired by Kenji and his wife having actually participated in the NYC marathon several times. Scored for a very unusual combination of string trio and French horn, the work evokes the feelings and sounds of the various neighborhoods that runners must travel through in the actual NYC marathon. This is a very interesting work with some strong writing for all players. "Luminaria" for violin and harp takes its inspiration from both the practice of noon time "restful" music being played at New York's St. Paul Chapel during the post-"9/11" cleanup as well as from the "fragile" but beautiful appearance of Mexican luminarias. This is, indeed, a restful and beautiful work and worthy of actual prayer and meditation. The CDs title work, "Boiling Point" the product of some "experimental" writing for amplified string quartet and drums! Written while Bunch himself was the violist in a new music string quartet, it takes its inspiration from everything from comic book art to the music of Morton Feldman to the sounds of a whistling tea kettle. This bouyant and engaging work sounds like minimalism meets rock meets jazz and is wholly engaging! This is a terrific CD and a wonderful introduction to the music of Kenji Bunch! The players in the "Alias Chamber Ensemble" (great name!) play very well and the sound quality is excellent!
Submitted on 10/22/12 by Dan Coombs 
The new music world is at once, horrifying
The new music world is at once, horrifying and er, horrifying. There seems to be not one thing identifying this composer (Mr. Bunch) from a dream I had once of elevator muzak, yet he seems much beloved by his indigenous audience. What do I know! One could inversely say, he’s not one of those annoying avant-garde composers who after hearing, you need a stiff drink to blot out the dissonance. This is the opposite--I was covered in a sugary goo afterwards—I had a long shower, then two stiff drink. To be fair, in the sweet nothingness, there is a lot of craft, good solid counterpoint, lots of transparency, and none of the contours are unmusical. But this confirms it; There are two types of academic composers-those that are unlistenable and those that are too listenable. Their little group is usually made up of sycophant students and rebellious defectors from the other camp. May these two tribes have a South Park recreation of the civil war and hopefully wipe each other out. Also, the performance on this CD seems a tad lack-luster. There’s not a lot of shaping of the music or digging in at any point–least it’s all in tune. Here’s a blow by blow:
String circle
1.This is string ensemble going through Adamsish, Appalachian machinations
2. More sentimental, Joplinish, boogy-woogie.
3. Elegyish negro-folksong, in an Americana pastoral style. Big Britten pedal ending.
4. Simulated banjo picking in orchestra pizz.-kinda cute. Which goes all Scott Joplin again.
5. Scary funk—dreamed up by a classical musician who got stood up at the prom. This is unintentionally humorous.
6. Drift
Piano with Messiaenish chords with clarinet that goes very, very pretty. ‘Drift’ into made-for-TV soundtrack land.
7. 26.2
Strings and horn that takes us on a punishing trip through a sweets factory.
8. Luminaria
Why isn’t this fellow writing for a MOW, where a cancer patient falls in love with the doctor, who happens to be her dad-where she survives but her parakeet dies in a drive-by shooting. The harp arpeggios is where the parakeet ghost flies away.
9. Boiling point
Can’t wait for ‘the pedal to the metal’ bombast here. Stopwatch, kick drum, and elongated motiv from ‘Jaws’. I’m boiling. in a hocking hell! This wasn’t so bad until the snare drum starting bonking 2 and 4, and it went scary absurd. Add scary glisses. This guy is nuts! It’s like a kettle boiling! Who knew!

Submitted on 11/01/12 by Mike Maguire 
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Works Details

>Bunch, Kenji [Viola] : String Circle 1, for viola & string quartet
  • Ensemble: ALIAS Chamber Ensemble
  • Running Time: 21 min. 49 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Chamber Music
  • Written: 2005

>Bunch, Kenji [Viola] : Drift, for clarinet, viola & piano
  • Performers: Lee Levine (Clarinet); Christopher Farrell (Viola); Roger Wiesmeyer (Piano)
  • Running Time: 10 min. 27 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Chamber Music
  • Written: 2006

>Bunch, Kenji [Viola] : 26.2, for violin, viola, cello & horn
  • Ensemble: ALIAS Chamber Ensemble
  • Running Time: 11 min. 41 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Chamber Music
  • Written: 2012

>Bunch, Kenji [Viola] : Luminaria, for violin & harp
  • Performers: Alison Gooding (Violin); Licia Jaskunas (Harp)
  • Running Time: 8 min. 17 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 2001

>Bunch, Kenji [Viola] : Boiling Point, for string quartet, bass & drum set
  • Ensemble: ALIAS Chamber Ensemble
  • Running Time: 6 min. 30 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 2002