Scott Johnson: Mind Out of Matter, Music Out of Speech

by Michael Schell

Musicians of every stripe have spent centuries exploring the range of vocal expression from straight speaking to pure singing. The development of recording technology has added a few new possibilities to the mix, and one of them, called speech melody, has become closely associated with the American composer Scott Johnson.

Born in 1952, Johnson grew up and studied in Wisconsin. Like Joni Mitchell, he played guitar, moved to New York in his 20s, and for a time fancied himself more of a visual artist than a musician. Johnson quickly integrated into the Downtown New York music scene, performing with Rhys Chatham and Laurie Anderson (before her pop star days), and exploring the regions where minimalism, jazz, rock, and electronic music all came together.

His breakthrough came in 1982 with the album John Somebody, which inaugurated his speech melody technique. Its workings can be easily discerned from the title track (above). Johnson starts with a snippet of recorded speech, then makes it into a tape loop as Steve Reich had done in his piece Come Out:

Johnson then fashions a guitar melody that aligns with the contour and rhythm of the speech, and plays this melody in sync with the loop. Accompanying chords, extra tracks of looped speech and guitar obbligatos, and an increasingly dense texture soon follow by way of musical development.

Photo by Patricia Nolan.

Johnson compares his speech transcription style to Messiaen’s practice of transcribing bird songs for use in compositions. He also cites the call-and-response patterns common in blues (as in this exchange between Bessie Smith and trombonist Charlie Smith) as an influence alongside Reich and Messiaen (“those three things kind of collided one afternoon”). Other musicians have experimented with speech melody in the years since John Somebody, including Florent Ghys in Petits Artéfacts (2015) and Reich himself, borrowing back from Johnson in Different Trains (1988).

Now Johnson is out with a new piece conceived for Alarm Will Sound. In place of the humorous tape loops of John Somebody, this work features the digitally sampled and recombined musings of Daniel Dennett, one of America’s leading philosophers and cognitive scientists, and a noted freethinker whose writings and speeches about the evolution of human consciousness are aptly reflected in the work’s title: Mind Out of Matter.

A good demonstration of Johnson’s updated approach for this composition comes at the start of “Winners,” the third of its eight movements. From the following spoken phrase…

“you can’t get ‘em out of your head”

…Johnson constructs a stuttering four-bar phrase using progressively longer excerpts:

Next, drums and percussion come in to reinforce the rhythm with a hint of mambo groove. Then, four bars later, the piano starts to melodicize the sampled speech…

…whereupon chords and other instruments are added to complete the texture:

You can hear this passage starting at 2:37 of the following rehearsal video:

With a length of 74 minutes, a gestation period of six years, and a broad timbral pallet befitting the instrumentation and virtuosity of Alarm Will Sound (a 21st century chamber orchestra equipped with wind, string, percussion and electric instruments), Mind Out of Matter is Johnson’s most elaborate composition to date. It has been called an “atheist oratorio,” not altogether ironically, since like Handel’s Messiah, it’s an epic, multi-movement voice and instrumental setting of texts about religion (and there’s even a “choral” movement where several of the musicians sing). In its structure, theme, and dimensions it also strikes me as a rationalist counterpart to Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde.

Johnson says he “tried to imbue this music with the sense of awe and wonder that lie at the heart of Dennett’s scientifically informed philosophy, while still emulating his gift for crafting a disarmingly playful presentation.” Mind Out of Matter succeeds by ritualizing the rational, creating a kind of secular age surrogate for religious music that acknowledges our persistent human attraction to sacralized culture.

STAFF PICKS: Friday Faves

Second Inversion hosts share a favorite selection from their playlist. Tune in during the indicated hours below on Friday, February 3 to hear these pieces. In the meantime, you’ll hear other great new and unusual music from all corners of the classical genre 24/7!

Glenn Kotche: Drumket Quartet No.51; So Percussion (Cantaloupe Music)

A few weeks ago, I decided to take a nice urban hike on a gorgeous, clear, sunny day here in Seattle. I didn’t feel like wasting any of that time in a car driving to a trail head, so I stayed local and used the power of my legs to circumvent Lake Union – a healthy handful of miles. I put my iPhone on shuffle and this piece came on in the mix. To me, it definitely has the tinkling sound of rain – which was no where in sight – but nonetheless set a perfect soundtrack for my walk. I enjoyed this piece so much that I put it on repeat and listened to it 3 times in a row because it’s just that good – Maggie Stapleton

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 11am hour today to hear this piece.


James Taylor: You Can Close Your Eyes (arr. Philip Lawson); The King’s Singers (Signum Classics)

James Taylor offered the world a peak into the gray area of a relationship when he wrote “You Can Close Your Eyes.”  The couple is stuck somewhere between a love ballad and a blues song as they remain in love but see the end edging nearer.  It’s a tricky tone for one man to negotiate, so how do the six men of The King’s Singers sound in their arrangement of this song?  Precise & layered with tight harmonies; it’s like a beautiful song woke up one morning and decided to put on its best crisp suit. – Rachele Hales

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 12pm hour today to hear this piece.


Philip Glass: Piano Étude No. 10; Bruce Levingston, piano (Sono Luminus)

Composed over the course of two decades, Philip Glass’s 20 Piano Études offer a fascinating retrospective of his musical progression—a rare chance to see his style grow and change through one single, controlled variable: the piano étude.

Pianist Bruce Levingston presents one in the exact middle: the dense and relentless No. 10. A friend and frequent collaborator of Glass, Levingston is quite at home amidst the cyclical harmonies and motoric rhythms, his fingers dancing nimbly through a kaleidoscopic soundscape of restless and repetitious motives. Suffice it to say: Glass’s Étude No. 10 is in very good hands. – Maggie Molloy

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 5pm hour today to hear this piece.


Charles Wuorinen: Big Spinoff; Alarm Will Sound

Charles Wuorinen’s Spinoff for violin, bass, and bongos of 1983 was a sort of ode to the harsh music of New York City: imagine if a violinist and bassist were having a chamber music rehearsal, and the sounds of their jamming wafted out the apartment window and mingled with the percussive physical sound of the city. Big Spinoff is essentially a spinoff of Spinoff, with a small chamber orchestra joining the musical fray. We get a lot of short, unison licks that propel the music forward and seem to capture the spirit of a chamber music rehearsal, which for some groups is more chaotic than others. At least Alarm Will Sound seems to be having a good time, and it’s a fun listen as well. I especially love the rapid-fire shifts of loud and soft music, an exciting contrast that is punctuated with toms and pounding piano. – Geoffrey Larson

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 5pm hour today to hear this piece.

STAFF PICKS: Friday Faves

Second Inversion hosts share a favorite selection from their playlist. Tune in during the indicated hours below on Friday, January 6 to hear these pieces. In the meantime, you’ll hear other great new and unusual music from all corners of the classical genre 24/7!

Sarah Kirkland Snider: Unremembered: VIII. The Witch (New Amsterdam)

unremembered_cover-300x300“The Witch” is the 8th vignette in a 13-piece song cycle titled Unremembered from fabulous composer Sarah Kirkland Snider. Aggressive strings and a militant orchestration set the scene for a spooky narrative that takes us into shadowy woods full of subtle horrors. Shara Nova’s growling vocals capture both the beauty and foreboding of this imagistic and vivid score. Snider’s “The Witch” is layered, grisly and intense from start to finish. Highly recommended for listeners of all ages, just maybe not before bedtime. – Rachele Hales

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 2pm hour today to hear this piece.


Aphex Twin: Mt. Saint Michel performed by Alarm Will Sound (Cantaloupe Music)

acoustica_300dpi_cmykStarting the new year swamped with work and already behind from the previous year is not ideal, but it is the situation many of us find ourselves in this January. Alarm Will Sound’s version of Aphex Twin’s Mt. Saint Michael is the perfect music for this situation. Perhaps embracing the chaos along with pursuit of self-care

is the way forward. – Seth Tompkins

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 3pm hour today to hear this piece.


Conlon Nancarrow (arr. Evan Ziporyn): Four Player Piano Studies performed by the Bang on a Can All-Stars (Cantaloupe Music)

55805527bd9c35da77388ee16ee84cb456d8fd53You could say the 20th century experimental composer and expatriate Conlon Nancarrow was a bit of an introvert. He lived most of his life in isolation, and for decades composed only for player pianos—working alone, by hand, to produce and perfect a massive library of swingin’ blues and boogie-woogie piano rolls, his famous 49 Studies for Player Piano among them.

Well, composer Evan Ziporyn decided to take a few of those piano roll etudes and put them into human hands—the hands of the Bang on a Can All-Stars. Ziporyn created a mixed ensemble arrangement that retains the visceral intensity and mechanical energy of Nancarrow’s original rolls, but reimagines them through the Technicolor timbral palette of Bang on a Can. It’s snazzy, jazzy, and full of color—proof that although player pianos have become largely obsolete, Nancarrow’s music is still very much alive. – Maggie Molloy

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 7pm hour today to hear this piece.


Lisa Bielawa: Synopsis No. 12 “What I Did Over Summer Vacation” Michael Norsworthy, clarinet (BMOP/Sound)

bmop1017sI have to confess that I was super biased to love this piece even before I heard it; as a clarinetist, I am a huge fan of the unaccompanied clarinet repertoire, and as a musician, I am huge fan of Lisa Bielawa. Incredible, bizarre, enigmatic works have been written for clarinet alone by composers like Igor Stravinsky, William Bolcom, and Shulamit Ran. As they require one single voice to command the listener’s attention, they are tremendously difficult to compose and perform. Luckily, the clarinet’s huge range provides ample opportunity to create a wide variety of colors and characters, and a bit of extended techniques can help as well. Bielawa’s work presents the performer with a number of different fragments and gives them free reign to decide the order in which they are played, and how many times they are used. The idea behind “What I Did Over Summer Vacation” and the other 14 Synopses (all with six-word titles) is tied to Hemingway’s six-word short story “For sale, baby shoes: never used.” Apparently, Bielawa’s musical fragments each represent a different vacation activity. BMOP’s clarinetist Michael Norsworthy does a lot of trilling and running around the register of the instrument – sounds like he had a busy summer vacation.

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 9pm hour today to hear this piece.

STAFF PICKS: Friday Faves

Second Inversion hosts share a favorite selection from this Friday’s playlist. Tune in during the indicated hours below on Friday, September 2 to hear these pieces. In the meantime, you’ll hear other great new and unusual music from all corners of the classical genre 24/7!

westside+industrialM.O.T.H.: “him” from Westside Industrial on slashsound

Growth, development, and change are inevitable parts of life, right? Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re unavoidable, sometimes they’re guided by motivation and hope, and sometimes they’re completely frustrating and disheartening. This ambient, electronic work by M.O.T.H. tells the story of “disillusionment, reassessing, and ultimately optimism after endeavor” from the perspective from “him” and “her” in a rapidly changing culture in a place once guided by arts and bohemian values. Gentrification, commodification, and commercialization have taken over to turn lifestyles into brands and shiny new thises and thats. Having this narrative in mind helps to give the relatively sparse texture of this work some deep meaning. Personally it resonates with me, as the city of Seattle continues to change in some of these ways, rendering certain neighborhoods unrecognizable from just 7 or 8 years ago. Westside Industrial is a reminder that we’re not alone in this change, and through our relationships with one another and with art, we can persevere. – Maggie Stapleton

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 12pm hour today to hear an excerpt from this piece.


a3222330692_16Daníel Bjarnason: Bow to String (Saeunn Thorsteinsdottir, cello; Valgeir Sigurosson, programming) on Bedroom Community

I don’t know what it is about cellists – shredding, rocking out, whatever you want to call it, they have some innate desire for it. Think of all the head-banging cello groups: 2cellos, Cello Fury, Uccello…everywhere there are cellists plugging into amps and tearing it up. They must have some sort of deep inner angst. Bow to String by Daníel Bjarnason definitely taps into that angst with the driving rhythms of the beginning, but relaxes to an almost haunting conclusion. It’s partially electrifying (no pun intended), partially cathartic, and a perfect SI selection. – Geoffrey Larson

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 4pm hour today to hear an excerpt from this piece.


gordon_vangogh_cover_1400pxMichael Gordon: Van Gogh (Alarm Will Sound) on Cantaloupe Music

Vincent van Gogh painted over 30 self-portraits in his short lifetime. Notoriously impoverished, he didn’t have the money to pay models to pose, nor the patronage to pay for the portraits—so, he painted himself.

Just imagine how much time he must have spent looking at his reflection, studying himself, painting his own image. Composer Michael Gordon explores that staggering sense of introspection in Van Gogh, an opera which takes the heartbreaking letters Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo as its libretto.

Performed here by the chamber orchestra Alarm Will Sound, the opera traces the tragic reality of Van Gogh’s life: his adolescent anxieties and rejections, his professional shortcomings and personal failures, his crippling loneliness and eventual institutionalization.

Van Gogh’s brutal honesty and raw emotions sprawl out amidst a strident ensemble of voice, clarinet, strings, piano, percussion, and electric guitar—each melodic line as thickly textured and brazenly colored as the brush strokes of Van Gogh’s famous canvases. It’s a powerful tribute to one of history’s greatest artists—a creative visionary who changed the face of art without ever making a cent.

“Theo, if you can, write soon,” he pleads. “And of course, the sooner you can send the money the better it would be for me. I spent my last penny on this stamp.” – Maggie Molloy

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 6pm hour today to hear an excerpt from this piece.


Brooklyn-coverSergei Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf, Op. 67 (arr. Project Trio)

If you’ve never heard someone beatbox on a flute you won’t want to miss Project Trio’s performance of “Peter and the Wolf.”  Greg Pattillo’s flute effects are out of this world and this funky, theatrical, exuberant take on a childhood classic is overflowing with humor and joy.  These are three musicians having a blast with their craft and the fun is contagious.  Highly recommended! – Rachele Hales

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 9pm hour today to hear an excerpt from this piece.

 

STAFF PICKS: Friday Faves

Second Inversion hosts share a favorite selection from this Friday’s playlist. Tune in during the indicated hours below on Friday, July 1 to hear these pieces. In the meantime, you’ll hear other great new and unusual music from all corners of the classical genre 24/7!

Derek Bermel: Three Rivers; Alan Pierson, Alarm Will Sound (Cantaloupe Music)

artworks-000034193045-rcfdyx-t500x500Derek Bermel’s “Three Rivers” sounds almost more “big band” than “chamber ensemble.”  In this piece inspired by a trip he took to Pittsburgh, where he spent several hours mesmerized by the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers, he’s crafted over eleven minutes of pure swagger.  It’s angular and almost bawdy.  If it doesn’t put you in mind of an abstract version of West Side Story then you probably haven’t seen West Side Story. – Rachele Hales

 

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 2pm hour today to hear this piece.


Bruce Adolphe: “My Inner Brahms: An Intermezzo” performed by Orli Shaham (Canary Classics)

8Brahms is not easy. Brahms is not easy to learn, not easy to play, not easy to perform, and certainly not easy to imitate. But composer Bruce Adolphe rose to the challenge when his former Julliard student Orli Shaham commissioned him to write a Brahmsian solo piano piece for her album Brahms Inspired.

And rise up he did—in “My Inner Brahms (An Intermezzo),” Adolphe channels the Romantic master’s trademark lyricism and profound depth. He echoes Brahms’ famously thick, dense harmonies and cascading arpeggios, his searing poignancy and that unmistakable sense of yearning. Like Brahms, there is a quality in Adolphe’s writing that is tragic, traumatic, and so incredibly vulnerable.

The piece completely surrounds and engulfs you in its swirling arpeggios and elusive melodies—and after a while you begin to lose yourself entirely to that bold, unmistakably Brahmsian lyricism.

No, Brahms is not easy—but he is so incredibly worth it. – Maggie Molloy

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 3pm hour today to hear this piece.


Suphala: Eight and a Half Birds (Tzadik Records)

MI0003637669If you weren’t paying attention, you might think this cut is just another track of house music that samples some “world music” sounds…  But, that would be a shame, because with this track, the beauty is in the details.  In Eight and a Half Birds, Suphala fuses danceable beats, nature sounds, piano samples, electronics, and her own tabla mastery into something very special, with the texture evolving and morphing in a deeply fascinating manner that’s also just subtle enough to fly right by the ears of the inattentive.  So, just what should we call this?  I’m going to choose to call it “post-minimalist post-house,” but labels don’t really matter when the music is this good.  This cut is music for squinting slowly into the sun on a bright, hot summer day and loving every second of it.

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 7pm hour today to hear this piece.

ALBUM REVIEW: Alarm Will Sound’s Modernists

by Geoffrey Larson

cover

The always-adventurous Alarm Will Sound is an ensemble that seems equally hungry for fun as they are for musical innovation. The music on their latest release seems to benefit from an approach that eschews austerity, focusing on what an incredibly good time it is for a virtuosic ensemble like AWS to perform music of such a level of fascination and complexity.

The album is cleverly bookended by contemporary takes on Varèse modernism, beginning with music that started life as a Beatles track, no less. Musique concrète and the avant-garde influenced John Lennon and Paul McCartney in the creation of their experimental track Revolution 9. McCartney was listening to quite a bit of Varèse and Stockhausen at the time, and Yoko Ono’s modernist aesthetic was also a guiding force on Lennon, who said he was trying to paint a picture of a revolution using sound. Although Matt Marks’ arrangement begins with the basic repeated building blocks of the Beatles track (a looping “Number 9” vocal sample and a piano melody), he quickly moves away from what would become an extremely annoying repetition. We are swiftly thrust into a kaleidoscopic world of similar musique concrète-like materials presented with increasing variety: samples of speech and crowd noise, short fragments of abbreviated melody, and instrumental effects that seem to mimic tapes being played backwards. The dark, noir-like feel of the first half of the track seems to veer towards a more chaotic depiction of revolutionary activity, and the ensemble is brought together at the conclusion with unified, purposeful chanting. Whatever one would call this music, it is a fascinating mix of sounds that not only reminds us of the awesome powers of a small chamber ensemble, but also connect the expressive qualities of conventional instruments with the speaking (and yelling) human voice. It is relentlessly striking, and although I am not always a fan of abrupt swerves in approach throughout a short piece, it absolutely is successful here.

In the middle, we experience a more introspective Augusta Reed Thomas, flanked with good old (new?) contemporary music party time. I saw Charles Wuorinen’s Big Spinoff live in 2014, and found the virtuosity and romping rhythms that drive the work to be intoxicating. It’s a work that unmistakably shares some DNA with John Adams’ two chamber symphonies, in all their banging rhythm and cartoonish runs of notes. The percussive, endlessly riffing texture is pretty non-stop with little variation, however, making us ready for something new by the time we get to Augusta Reed Thomas’ Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour. That next track features two texts, the titular Wallace Stevens poem and The Poem that Took the Place of a Mountain by the same author. The English text is spoken and sung, and explores the godliness of artistic creation and imagination, among other things. Without a doubt, we are in the midst of a theatrical experience here, and staging and lighting effects immediately come to mind when we hear the wispy curtain backdrop of instrumental sound. Alarm Will Sound changes gear again in the following track, where disjunct saxophone melodies introduce Wolfgang Rihm’s Will Sound, a technically challenging work written specifically for AWS (duh). It is atonal nearly to the point of serialism, which makes the surprising major and minor chords at the very end that much more neat and quirky. Alarm Will Sound under the direction of Alan Pierson is tremendously well-organized in its technical outbursts, but those startling chords at the conclusion would have had an even more powerful effect if had they been perfectly in tune. Masterful displays of technique abound on the succeeding track as well, as do moments of unsettled intonation. John Orfe’s Journeyman rounds out the core of this album with music that uses some seriously wacky combinations of instruments, seeming to evoke things like a local carnival ride, a Broadway opening, and a train.

At the end of the collection, we get Evan Hause’s ambitious acoustic re-imagining of Edgar Varèse’s Poème électronique. The original is one of Varèse’s most famous works, conceived to be part of an architectural installation by Le Corbusier at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. The swooping, beeping, and thumping electronic sounds have been given to the ensemble here, sort of a Poème analogique. We’ve even got a bit of singing, somehow even creepier in this arrangement than the original. Honestly, it’s an amazing arrangement executed to stunning effect by AWS; listening to Varèse’s original, it’s hard to believe that such an interesting musical feat could possibly be successful. Acoustic instruments seem to bring out more shades of character than the all-electronic sounds of the original: the bizarre, schizoid sounds are now somehow augmented with humor and intimacy.

That’s the triumph of AWS’s latest recording in a nutshell: these composers and this ensemble are able to take modernism, with its strange, confusing soundscape, and make it personable and relatable. This kind of music is probably not something you want in your life every day; but when you need it, it’s there, and it’s an amazingly good time.

AWS_Zappa_group

Photo credit: Cory Weaver

ALBUM REVIEW: Unremembered by Sarah Kirkland Snider

by Maggie Molloy

sksnider unremembered

Childhood is a time of youthful innocence, joyous discovery, and wondrous possibility—but along with that unbridled and enchanting sense of imagination can also come dark creatures, mysterious horrors, and haunting memories.

Composer Sarah Kirkland Snider braves these mystical terrors and takes on the full beauty and vast musical scope of childhood imagination in her latest release, “Unremembered.” The album is a 13-part song cycle, and each piece is its own narrative—a tender memory, a ghostly mystery, or a haunting message. Together, the cycle is a rumination on memory, innocence, imagination, and the strange and subtle horrors of growing up.

Composed for seven voices, chamber orchestra, and electronics, the songs were inspired by the poems and illustrations of writer and artist Nathaniel Bellows, a close friend of Snider. The poems depict poignant memories of Bellows’ own childhood upbringing in rural Massachusetts—tales which in turn triggered memories from Snider’s own childhood, giving shape to her musical settings of the text.

The album was released on New Amsterdam Records, a label Snider co-created with Judd Greenstein and William Brittelle in 2008 to promote classically-trained musicians who create outside the confines of the classical music tradition. The album features vocalists Shara Worden (of My Brightest Diamond), Padma Newsome (of Clogs), and singer-songwriter DM Stith gliding above the instrumental talents of musicians from contemporary ensembles like ACME, Alarm Will Sound, ICE, The Knights, and Sō Percussion.

A follow-up to Snider’s critically-acclaimed 2010 song cycle, “Penelope,” the new album lives somewhere in the mystical, mythical world between classical and pop genres. Each song is its own vividly colored vignette, a mesmerizing narrative brought to life through Snider’s rich textural and temperamental palette.

“I think that all of my music is narrative driven—that’s what I’m the most interested in musically—mood and storytelling and atmosphere,” Snider said in an interview with Molly Sheridan of NewMusicBox. “I’m fascinated by complex emotions—the places where affection crosses over and merges with dread, or regret merges with gratitude.”

From the ghostly echoes and somber lyricism of “Prelude” to the surreal dark carnival dance of “The Barn,” each piece tells a different tale of childhood; a memory embellished, ornamented, and altered over the years. In a way, Snider also embellishes memories of the classical genre—musically she recalls the strict rules and structures of the classical tradition, but she does so in a way that is blurred, broken, and beautifully contorted. Her collaboration with Worden helped breathe life into this eclectic collection of musical influences.

“Shara [Worden] had become my closest friend and we’d had so many conversations about classical versus pop music, and all of the frustrations that we had dealing with the lack of infrastructure to support music written in the cracks between those worlds,” Snider said in her interview with NewMusicBox. “She also just so comfortably can inhabit both worlds, which is something that so few singers can do, so I felt like I could really let it rip.”

Worden’s operatic voice drifts above the restless woodwind motives and dreamlike themes of “The Guest,” glides gracefully above the delicately swelling orchestral backdrop on “The Swan,” and echoes just as sweetly above the subtle, soft strings of “The Song.”

The album climaxes with “The Witch,” a ruthless and rhapsodic witch hunt played out across a programmatic musical arc. Worden’s low voice hisses against the aggressive strings and militant drums of the orchestra. She sings the ghostly tale of a witch hunt while the strings and percussion chase after her, brewing with melodrama and theatrical orchestral nuances. The piece ends with twinkling celeste motives as the haunting witch hunt fades back into a distant memory.

“The Slaughterhouse” is similarly grim, though it begins with a sweet reprieve: a gorgeous, achingly tender solo piano melody. The gentle rumination gives way to a somber tale of slaughtered animals, a collection of beasts buried beneath the winter ice—the cold memory and throbbing melodies sending shivers down the listener’s spine.
“The Girl” tells of a tragic small-town suicide—a girl hanged in an entire forest of musical timbres. Snider paints a vivid musical picture of the wind blowing through the trees, birds chirping in the early morning sky, and inquisitive animals peeking out behind woven beds of flowers. “The River” tells another solemn tale, with somber vocals flowing above fragmented melodies and a slowly rumbling bass.

The album comes to a close with “The Past,” a fractured montage of childhood memories echoing musical fragments from earlier songs in the cycle. But this time, the piece sounds hopeful—like a lullaby alive once again with the warmth and sweetness of childhood.

And just like that, the melancholy requiem of “Unremembered” evaporates into a softly twinkling silence, like an enchanting music box tenderly closing—and while the exact details of the memories may fade with time, the album itself is unforgettable.