Jordan Nobles's Spacious Neo-Classical Compositions Span Decades on 'Chiaroscuro'

BY Kevin PressPublished Jul 6, 2020

Taken at face value, it would seem that the two pieces that make up Jordan Nobles's new recording belong on entirely different releases. The album's title piece is a 30-minute 2014 composition, "an essay on harmonic stasis," according to the album notes. The 14-and-a-half-minute "Pulses" was penned 15 years earlier. It will appeal to lovers of 20th century minimalism drawn in by the harmonic modulation experiments of Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and La Monte Young.

Nobles has not earned that level of name recognition, but he is now nine albums deep into a career marked by more than just critical acclaim. The 50-year-old B.C. composer's work is performed internationally. Along the way, he's won a list of prizes that includes the 2017 JUNO Award for Classical Composition of the Year. In 2011, he placed first in the Seattle-based POLYPHONOS competition for choral composers. Stylistically, Nobles has earned a reputation for producing a kind of wide-open, unhurried new classical music that listeners can lose themselves in. "Chiaroscuro" comes at us in gentle waves. Its theme is the contrast between light and dark, which he's chosen to present visually with an album cover showcasing the surface of the moon set against pitch black space.

"Pulses" sounds very much like its title. The pace is somewhat more brisk, but again measured. On both these works, Nobles achieves a kind of digestible complexity. Every note is presented for our appreciation. Pay close attention to its absorbing detail, or let your mind wander and see where the work takes you.

There is no shortage of detail. Both works are for a large ensemble; the album features 22 players in all, plus five vocalists. In this sense, the two pieces — despite the decade and a half between them — feel entirely connected. There is a continuity here that will make you want to dig deeper into Nobles' catalogue.

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