It’s a colour. It’s an element. And most recently, it’s Jocelyn Morlock’s CD that I’ve been playing incessantly.
I first encountered Morlock as one of the composers in the workshop experience of Tapestry Briefs, a process whimsically compared to speed-dating. Composers & librettists worked together on a series of brief subjects. Morlock made a strong impression with the most disturbingly memorable five minutes of any I encountered.
Cobalt is not an operatic CD, but rather seven instrumental compositions that represent a kind of Morlockian smorgasbord, demonstrating her flamboyant and distinctive voice.
1) “Music of the Romantic Era” gives a suggestion of the depths of her sensibility. When was the last time you laughed out loud at the wit of a composition? At once hysterically funny and poignant, a piece showing genuine ambivalence about music and music-making, ostentation and blatant rhetorical gestures of beginning & ending abound, calling attention to the bizarre realm of the concert and concert music. This is a wonderfully accessible piece of music and a brilliant way to begin a CD.
2) “Cobalt” is as elusive and ambiguous as the opening piece was direct. I found the composition somewhat inscrutable. We’re listening to orchestra & a pair of solo violins in an obsessive duet, small phrases gradually elaborated into a bigger and bigger design in the whole orchestra.
3) “Disquiet” is one of the compositions on this album that is genuinely dramatic, suggestive of a mood & of emotional dynamics. If I were to psychoanalyze this piece I’d say that “Disquiet” needs to go see a shrink, because it’s troubled. Yet I can see that Morlock is exploring this way of being from a solid footing. At times I think we’re on Bernard Herrmann’s crazy Hitchcockian turf, where dissonant clusters suggest pain that won’t go away, where repeated patterns resist change or healing. It’s a safe place ultimately for such an investigation, one that doesn’t leave me feeling tainted or troubled by the emotions that are stirred.
4) “Asylum” too comes from a place of emotional wisdom, showing us both pain and relief, a dynamic essential to feeling Asylum. On this and a couple of other pieces I had wondered which came first: the music or the title. Morlock said via Facebook that it’s usually the composition. As the piece takes shape I suppose the meaning of the music begins to emerge. However it works, the titles seem very apt. As a person with romantic leanings myself, I prefer this approach, where the emotional side is not suppressed but actively cultivated.
5) Speaking of romantic “Oiseaux bleus et sauvages” sounds very much like what you’d expect at least at the beginning. After a birdlike opening we’re into something minimalistic, which is to say that we’re in a realm of pattern music. To me pattern music usually connotes music as music, notes that are not imitating birds or natural phenomena, but instead are music that makes a presence or mood. That apparent contradiction notwithstanding, it works wonderfully well. We get a few more sounds that are birdlike, or at least the sounds an orchestra makes when imitating birds. The effect is neo-classical or perhaps neo-romantic, in calling attention to the apparatus of an orchestra imitating birds, not unlike the feelings we get in Prokofiev’s ‘Classical’ symphony. It’s a very safe and charming version of Nature.
6) I’m somewhat conflicted about this track, the only one that didn’t grab me from the first. It’s called “Golden” and it’s growing on me the more I listen to it. It doesn’t seem to fit with the others, but that hardly makes it bad. I realize that this one has a great deal of subtext in the liner notes –which i’ve only just looked at now as i write this–so i need to open my mind to the ambitions of this composition. Something about it rubs against my grain, perhaps because there are human voices and words. Yet I believe this too is romantic on Morlock’s part and a sincere exploration of something that hasn’t quite penetrated for me.
7) we close with “Solace”, another piece employing a tuneful solo violin, but this time with a soulful cello as well. There are moments reminding me of “”The Lark Ascending”, in a direct and bold statement of a musical idea. It’s a strong demonstration of a composer with ideas and the wherwithal to develop them.
Overall it’s quite an impressive outing. Diverse as the pieces are, I’m sensing a kind of post-romantic understanding of music linked to & inspiring feeling. I continue to listen to the CD, and happily await more from this talented young composer.
Here‘s how to get “Cobalt”
And you can also find it in a record store from Naxos.