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Album at a Glance

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Centrediscs:Since we first launched Centrediscs in 1981, our award-winning recording label has been dedicated to showcasing the talent of Canadian composers.
Release Date: 2013-05-28


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Music of Allan Gordon Bell - Gravity & Grace


Gravity and Grace from the CentreDiscs label is the first album devoted entirely to the chamber music of Canadian composer Allan Gordon Bell. I have wanted to recommend this extraordinary disc for several months now, but sometimes, reviewing contemporary music comes with a unique set of challenges. I was drawn to this music on first hearing; however trying to understand and explain why required a lot of listening. Having performed Bell's music since the 1980's, Land's End Chamber Ensemble knows this music inside and out; their performances leave nothing to be desired. The group launched this project because they believe Bell's music deserves a much wider audience. So do I.

Allan Gordon Bell (b.1953) believes the task of an artist is 'to reveal the extraordinary in the ordinary.' He found his inspiration for this music on the prairies of western Canada, where he lives. The cry of a falcon, buzzing insects, a distant thunderstorm, lightning strikes, howling coyotes and a sunset on the prairie - all these events of nature have found a place in his music. The results are pieces of raw power, haunting beauty and a profound spiritual depth.

The sounds Bell draws from his instruments are marvelous. There are times I felt certain that some of what I was hearing was electronically produced, but only acoustic instruments are used - clarinet, flute, violin, piano, cello and percussion.

Considerations of form and conventional musical techniques are central to Bell's compositions and I think this fact is what I find most satisfying about his music. Rhythmic ostinatos, counterpoint, imitation and the development of thematic cells keep the music interesting. His use of contrasting and recurring sections with highly effective transitions between them helps secure formal structures. And the tension and relaxation cycle in the music (not only harmonically) drive it forward and give it purpose. Bell accomplishes what is important and lacking in so much contemporary music.

While Bell's music is certainly not for everyone, its power and originality was irresistible to me. I invite you to listen to the samples provided in the sidebar, which are the first two movements of Trails of Gravity and Grace. If you think you would enjoy more of this music, go for it. Purchase the CD, read the program notes so you understand what the composer is expressing, and give the album an honest, focused hearing. I hope that the rewards for you will be as great as those I have enjoyed.

This recording of Allan Gordon Bell's Innua, Three Masks (not on Gravity and Grace) comes from a live performance by the Harmonia Trio