American composer Mara Gibson’s second album SKY-BORN with Navona Records is a gripping response to a variety of artistic sources, showing her deft hand and unflinching approach to music-making.
The new release performed by her fellow faculty members at the Kansas City-based UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance features six different works with such evocative titles as Folium Cubed and Spark.
Gibson draws on a palette of extended instrumental techniques in a series of six interspersed preludes in Conundrums, inspired by Jim Condron’s abstract paintings and performed with conviction by pianist Holly Roadfeldt. One Voice, featuring mezzo-soprano Megan Ihnen and violist Michael Hall. becomes a haunting, sparsely textured response to Michigan-based Hannah Ensor’s poetry. The CD’s longest work Blackbird performed by the Cascade Quartet is infused with rugged, visceral energy based on Wallace Stevens’ iconic Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, while title track Sky-Born for vocal ensemble and cellist Esther Seitz features more lyrical, imitative lines juxtaposed with percussive rhythmic cells.
While not wholly for the faint-of-heart, this new album displays a compelling contemporary voice with a restless imagination, able to morph other forms of artistic expression into daring, musical odysseys.
— Holly Harris
This interesting Cd Navona leads us to the discovery of the young composer Mara Gibson . Gibson’s music is striking for its intensity and expressive urgency, evident in songs like Blackbird for string quartet, where dominating are a series of stubborn rhythmic obstacles whose alternation generates increasing curves of tension, not without moments of apparent stasis. A rhythmic dynamism clearly perceivable also in the other pieces, especially in the series of piano preludes played by Holly Roadfeldt , called to daring timbric virtuosity reminiscent of the lessons of a Henry Cowell. The (desired) lack of tonal melodic grips and the insistent use of timbral experimentation (even with wind instruments) does not prevent Gibson from achieving emotional results, albeit partly deliberately elusive, as in the conclusive One Voice, for (Megan Ihnen) voice and (Michael Hall) viola.