Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Aeolian, Pentatonic, … are some of the “pure modal scales” that Michael Vincent Waller (b. 1985) employs on his debut album “The South Shore” (XI Records, 2xCD) in order to create kind of impressionistic snapshots, images of moments. Kind of, because although Waller’s music is sometimes associated with that of Debussy, Ravel and Erik Satie, I think we’re not strictly speaking dealing with impressionistic music here, not at least in the classical sense.
Each piece, written for a solo instrument (cello, piano, flute), a duo, a trio, a string quartet or a small chamber ensemble, is given a story of the object portraited. In that sense Waller’s music is openly programmatic. That along with its melodicity, lyricism and serenity creates associations that rather refer to film music, and indeed should make many of the minimalistic compositions interesting for film makers.
But there’s more to the pieces than their referential content and often seeming simplicity, use of repetition and idiomatic rhythmic development, in particular there’s a quality (a view or perspective) that is not always easy to get grip on, and that materializes itself on different levels, but ultimately shows that behind the miniatures there’s a genuine musical intention, an idea consistently implemented throughout the twenty works included. It’s also apparent that Waller hasn’t written the compositions out of nothing, but in the firm awareness of the tradition.
Twenty-five musicians altogether perform on this album, a special role being handed over to Christine Kim (cello) who’s also one of the producers.