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Posted November 3, 2010
The Naxos American Classics series has introduced me to so many new voices in American music, and this new entry is certainly welcome. Though I appreciated an earlier Naxos disc containing two of his symphonies (8.559329 from 2007), I think the more rhapsodic style of the pieces on this new disc are a better fit for Cooman's considerable composition skills. The common thread that ties together most of these works is "dreaming", and Cooman's dreams are translated into sound in a most appealing way.
The composer's inspirations for this music, explained in his admirable liner notes, come from a variety of sources: the natural and built landscapes and histories of special places; interesting meteorological effects; and in one case (Miacomet Dreaming), an oil painting by Loretta Yoder (though not the Yoder painting featured on the CD cover). Most interestingly, he builds landscape changes into two of the most interesting works on the disc.
In Sankaty Dreaming (String Quartet #4), Cooman tells a story of nature reclaiming a landscape. It's a stirring story that ends on a elegaic note. Cooman calls Flying Machine "workshop/construction" music. This clever piece is about the shifts in perspective that result in different ways of looking at a landscape.
All in all, this music tells a story about the world around the composer. It's a much more dynamic story than the more static pastoral tradition of 20th century British music, so perhaps it's more typically American. This music is about dreams, but it's not all dreamy!