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Boomkat Product Review:
The Cusp Of Magic was commissioned by the Kronos Quartet to commemorate the 70th birthday of their longtime friend and collaborator Terry Riley. Frankly, it's a bit mean making someone work so hard on something for their own birthday, but there's clearly a great deal of joy been poured into the composition, with the outwardly quite frivolous use of children's toys and noise-makers on one of the piece's six movements, 'Emily And Alice'. Far from being the sort of irritatingly twee exercise in banal tinkering it might have been, there's a tangible link to fairy tale worlds (apparently the melody heard in this movement is taken from the theme song to Russian cartoon character 'Cheburashka', and there's an obvious parallel to be drawn with elements of The Nutcracker. Much of the music here incorporates the pipa of Wu Man, which integrates in a surprisingly seamless fashion, avoiding the usual east-meets-west clichés, instead occupying a 'between' state that doesn't really commit to any single set of harmonies. The closing piece 'Prayer Circle' condenses this perfectly, with the Kronos strings playing call and response with the Wu Man's pipa; like two clauses forming a sentence. Highly recommended.