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Boomkat Product Review:
These four pieces by Hyla explore variations on modern chamber music. Starting with a new String Quartet, performed by (and composed specifically for) the Lydian Quartet, Hyla plunges the listener into a world of choppy, repetitive cello motifs and jagged violins. The jittery discord and drama at the opening of the piece soon gives way to a more contemplative approach, even verging on the romantic by the point we reach its solemn final couple of minutes. After the stirring sophistication of ‘String Quartet No. 4’ comes the truly surreal listening experience that is the album’s title track… The Wilson’s Ivory-bill is the largest species of North American woodpecker (some twenty inches in length, fact fans) and has long-since been presumed extinct until a sighting last year. Hyla’s piece of the same name takes the birdsong of the woodpecker and combines this with a narrative song (about said woodpecker of course) performed by the extremely open-minded baritone, Mark McSweeney while accompanied by piano. Utterly bizarre stuff, but immensely entertaining, it actually sounds rather close to something from Scott Walker’s Drift album, but with an absurd ornithological subject matter. The remaining two pieces reprise the formal sobriety of the excellent opening quartet, though these are both compositions for trios. ‘The Dream Of Innocent II’ from 1987 is especially invigorating stuff, throwing together amplified cello, piano and occasionally incendiary percussion. In addition to having published works through labels like Nonesuch, New World and C.R.I., Hyla pursues a luminous career as an academic, currently residing as chairman of composition at the New England Conservatory.