Available at NMC Recordings
Latimer identifies creative playfulness as an essential feature of his artistic credo, and his energetic, hugely enjoyable, sometimes anarchic, tonal scores, full of humor without precluding sideways glances at serious subjects, add up to a body of work of great originality and unmistakable individuality of approach.
Three of the works here are, broadly speaking, orchestral scherzi. Mills’ Mess refers to the mechanical precision and razor’s edge thrill of a particularly complex and asymmetrical juggling routine, with twitchy syncopated rhythms and patterns of gestures that interweave and don’t quite predictably repeat. Moby Dick ignores the book’s central, looming theme in favor of details drawn from the wealth of scene-setting asides that enrich the narrative’s texture. So figures scurry, cartoon-like, around the decks, breezes flutter pennants, penny-whistles are blown and there is a general atmosphere of rowdy energy. In the slow central section an accordion plays something like a hymn-like chorale, soon taken up with greater weight by the orchestra, and we glimpse the awful majesty of the surging ocean, before the relentless activity starts up again.
Latimer’s earliest memories of orchestral music are cartoon soundtracks, the often wildly inventive, irreverent, genre-blending (in the sense of a food blender) accompaniments to classic entertainments like Tom and Jerry, exuberantly scored by Scott Bradley, to whose work Antiarkie is an homage. The work’s lightning-fast scene changes incorporate all the familiar gestures of the genre, Latimer somehow contriving to keep the pandemonium, with its whistles, whooping musical saws, sliding trombones and the like, under some sort of control.
Frigates and Folly is again based on Moby Dick, this time the absurdly, desperately jolly and irrationally optimistic character of Stubb, the Second Mate. A counterpoint to Ahab’s monomaniacal determination, Stubb is the ultimate fatalist; as he says “I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.” So he makes fun of an approaching typhoon, jokes about death, and raises a brimming mug to inevitable calamity. The four speeches, extracted and adapted by the composer, are set to wildly extrovert, mostly loud, propulsive music (which in the final section is raucously shouted into the teeth of the storm to a relentlessly rhythmic accompaniment). Around the middle of the work we are treated to a powerful vision of the awesome majesty of the sea – but Stubb, oblivious, resumes his noisy jollity.
The unexpectedly intimate little song cycle finds Latimer flirting with the patterns of post-minimalism, while Divertimento pays tribute to (and deconstructs and distorts) similar works from the past, in a mechanistic scherzo – music for a malfunctioning mechanical clock? – a frantically over-ornamented Baroque fantasia, and a ghostly passacaglia accompanied by rattling ankle bells and “Tell-Tale Heart” thudding from the harp. (Read More)
Records International, October 2021