Somnambule - Writing About Music

Ryan Teague ~ Six Preludes

With Six Preludes, Cambridge-based Ryan Teague explores the potential for integration between crackly electronica and orchestral instrumentation. It’s an area ripe for development, though one that’s by no means virginal given Murcof’s previous visits on 2002’s Martes and its partial successor, Ulysses. Teague’s sonic palette is more varied, however, and he clearly feels less constrained to add beats at every turn – only a minority of the six preludes succumb to a regular percussive rhythm. His writing for strings is also richer and less predictable with the result that this music is not easy to file away as ‘beats plus strings’ or other, similarly dismissive descriptions.

Prelude I’s string section bears the sort of melancholic gravitas last heard to such impressive effect on Asa Chang and Jun Ray’s Hana. The initially confident impulse of the violins is waylaid by electronic treatments and gradually mutates as a woman’s voice sings wordlessly in the distance. Later, Prelude III’s methodical percussion recalls Victor Gama’s rainforest creations while strings pulse like Steve Reich’s Desert Music. Combined with the crackle and dust of contemporary glitch-ery and a short-lived pitter-patter beat towards the end, this hybrid succeeds in becoming more than the sum of its parts. Teague exercises an admirable degree restraint throughout: he avoids overburdening his music while allowing it to negotiate transitions and foreground activity in a way that consistently engages the attention. Some of these pieces succeed in achieving a notable degree of beauty, but when surveyed as a whole they feel just a little slight. They are, after all, a collection of preludes. Their promise, however, makes me impatient to hear how Teague is going to expand upon these ideas.
Colin Buttimer
May 2005
Published by The Wire