Imagine for a moment that you’ve stumbled upon an abandoned estate. Entering, you discover that this place was left in haste, its objects largely left untouched, save for a thin blanket of dust. Like, say, Myst (sidebar: Myst is a PC game mommies and daddies used to play). This is a little what it is like to explore Qasim Naqvi’s latest release, "Preamble" – no ticking time clock, each corner is a reveal, and patience is rewarded with sorcerous encounters.
Likely most recognized as the drummer for the choice outfit Dawn of Midi (for serious, go procure a copy of "Dysnomia," forthwith), Naqvi occupies significant credit ink for film score arrangements for the Sundance Channel, HBO, PBS, NBC, and the Academy Awards. While Preamble strikes out as a companion to a film installation, described by the composer as based on China Miéville's sci-fi noir novel The City & the City, this album lives successfully as a standalone work.
Notated, in part, graphically, with instrumentalists given a wide berth for choice-making, what is immediately striking about this fluid collection is its cohesion and inviting, organic development. A conductor is invited to impose structure to the proceedings at select moments, the harmonic language is concise, and one can’t help but imagine that even with its extemporaneous elements, there is some larger hyper-meter, some long-range architecture at work here, stretched so far as to defy subdivision by the listener.
Take Track 2, Meg Erase Meta, which stands as the most rhythmic offering – real super-balls on trampolines stuff – in which the modest forces of piano and solo strings create a rich, asymmetric grid of resonant plucks. Flute, clarinet, and vibraphone are the only other instruments employed in "Preamble", and the young musicians of the Contemporary Music Ensemble of NYU dexterously execute Naqvi’s intents, as in Track 7, Esc, in which pulsating clarinet, flute and strings swirl in elegant pools of timbral hues. Naqvi’s scores throughout emphasize the individual colors offered by each instrument and player, frequently alighting on unison pitches so that facets of the same tone come into relief. While this music lives compellingly in headphones, the aleatory employed has us eager to see a live, never-to-be-repeated, version of this absorbing suite.
- Doyle Armbrust