Boiling Point/Kenji Bunch

June 25, 2013

boiling point



After fifty years of listening to music I thought that I had heard it all until I listened to Boiling Point (2002), a new release of music from Kenji Bunch. This is the first compilation of his material. Imagine sitting in a symphony hall and before they start playing someone brings out a teakettle and begins to heat the water. The chamber ensemble begins to play, translating the sounds of the teakettle into musical sounds. The work in part is based on graphic novel material as well as experimental music from Victor Feldman. The unusual composition is without any melody but depends on the percussion and cells of sound that conjure up all kinds of thoughts. You’ll hear the teakettle sounds at the end as it rises to a boil followed by the whistling effect. You can also hear the rumbling of the water as it escalates to a boil. The work ends when the water boil which is roughly six minutes and the pot is removed from the heat. If you’re interested in experimental type music this is going to be right up your alley. Repeated listens will lead to further understanding of the material.

String Circle (2005) was part of a Delos 40 year celebration of their releases and this one got my attention completely. It is music that is country, fiddling, and classical in nature. While I couldn’t classify it as strong in the melody area there are cells of melody and rhythm. “Ballad” is a quiet tune based on the folk song “Wayfaring Stranger.” Quite elegiac it has a feel of a slow movement one might hear from Charles Ives. “Porch Picking” is unique in that it is played entirely pizzicato with the strings imitating the sound of both the banjo and the ukulele. The final movement is “Overdrive” a fast dance that moves from country to a more modern sound. This approach is not new as the 20th Century composer Bela Bartok did the very same thing with his work. “Drift” begins as if it is a duo for clarinet with piano providing the harmony of simple repetitive chords. The viola makes its entrance two minutes or so into the work making it a trio. The melodic line shifts between the three instruments making it a satisfying listening experience. “26.2” tells the story of running the New York marathon. It begins very quietly offers a brief but noticeable country reference but the outstanding French Horn playing of Leslie Norton quickly takes over and offers a majestic melody suggesting patriotism. From there the style switches to various sounds including a couple of Herrmann horn notes, an Irish melody from the French horn, and ends on an upbeat note with a restating of the melody. “Luminaria” is a duo for harp and violin which depicts a flickering Mexican votive candle displaying its unusual light.

This CD offers many styles of music thus it should have a wide appeal to classical, folk, and experimental listeners. It is a compilation of Bunch material written between 2001 and 2012 and repeated listens have revealed the fact that he is high on the list of 21st century composers. Definitely one to be explored and comes with my recommendation.

Track Listing:

String Circle (Tracks 1-5)

1… Lowdown (4:29)

2… Shuffle Step (3:11)

3… Ballad (7:34)

4… Porch Picking (3:36)

5… Overdrive (3:36)

6… Drift (10:28)

7… 26.2 (11:41)

8… Luminaria (8:17)

9… Boiling Point (6:36)

Total Time is 59:29


2 Responses to “Boiling Point/Kenji Bunch”

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