Anna Höstman (compositions) and Cheryl Duvall (piano) are two key members
of Canada’s new music scene that was so wonderfully though necessarily
incompletely documented in Another Timbre’s Canadian Composer’s Series.
Unsurprisingly, this album could have fit seamlessly into that catalog.
(NB: Höstman did received an honorable mention in the liner notes to that
is an album of sparse and pensively meandering solo piano. Pieces tend to
fall in and out of sprightly sprigs of melody and distorted tempos that
convey a deep longing. And, as much as parallels can be drawn with the
usual new music pantheon, these compositions invariably the billowy
sometimes nervous romantic piano-landscapes of Leo Ornstein, as well. Take,
the first track, the eponymous “Harbour (2015). This piece is particularly
dynamic as it mixes dramatic overtones with stilted rhythms, and a dreamy
whirlwind of scales over spins atop a grounding of overlapping resonances.
Unique and beautiful in its own right, this music resides somewhere between
“Suicide on an Airplane” and “Morning in the Woods” in its restive and
melancholic melodicism, even if it is more pared down. Other tracks tread a
similar line between hypnotic simplicity and slowly billowing loops on the
one hand and jagged, brooding melodic cascades on the other.
In Harbour, Höstman and Duvall have produced an absolutely
compelling album. It is patient and deliberate, eerily emotive. It is
winsome, but dissonant. And as much as it reminds me of Ornstein in its
flourishes, it is hardly derivative. Or, rather, it derives inspiration
from numerous corners of the classical avant-garde and refracts them into
something both rooted and contemporary. The result resembles a sleepy
harbor at dusk. A few ships slowly drift in and out of view. The viewer’s
mind wanders, half-disconsolately, half-ponderously, as his eyes fix upon
seemingly arbitrary, but somehow alluring points along the horizon. The
waves lap gently ashore. And then the wind picks up briefly and introduces
new colors and sounds and temperatures that settle seamlessly into the
environs, now slightly, and only slightly, transformed.