Emily Howard: Magnetite

Emily Howard: Magnetite

by Andrew Gourlay


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Emily Howard: Magnetite

Composer Emily Howard writes music informed by abstract structures derived from mathematics and science, and then applies it to concrete, real-world phenomena. The compositions on this NMC-label release are thus classifiable as program music, and they work well as such for those willing to invest a bit of booklet time in order to figure out what's going on. An interesting feature of Howard's music is the persistence of its basic characteristics across pieces that are broadly tonal (the title work) and those much less so. Each work is based on a specific image reflecting the scientific process that it embodies. You might sample "Mesmerism," a little piano concerto in which the piano gradually brings the orchestra into its thrall despite increasingly agitated attempts to resist. The designation of "scapegoat" as the accompanying ensemble for "Leviathan" is a bit confusing; it is the name of the ensemble that performs the work, consisting of baritone saxophone and percussion. This work is a structural tour de force, encompassing quotations from the music of William Lawes, the probabilities of coincidence of the imperfectly controllable pitches of the saxophone and a bowed cymbal, the principle of homeomorphism, and the depiction of an undersea environment. These works, instrumental and vocal, and written for a variety of ensembles, seem part of a distinct and personal environment that draw the listener in, and they provide ideal listening for those who want program music with a bit more rigor, or perhaps abstract music more closely tied to concrete experience.

Product Details

Release Date: 08/24/2016
Label: Nmc Records
UPC: 5023363021920
catalogNumber: 219


  1. String Quartet ("Afference")
  2. Mesmerism, for piano & chamber orchestra
  3. Threnos, for 2 voices
  4. Magnetite, for orchestra
  5. Solar, for orchestra
  6. Leviathan, for baritone saxophone & percussion

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