Review: Mark Osborn's CD Interregna

July - September, 2000: San Diego: San Diego New Music Newsletter Volume 3, Issue 3

Mark Osborn's CD INTERREGNA is about nothing. Don't get me wrong - it is not nothing; it very much is something. It is, in fact, profoundly deep and meaningful. It's just that it's subject matter, like the play Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett or a lot of the poetry of T.S. Elliott (anyone who's read that classic The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock , who can forget it?), is about nothing. The compositions on this CD tend to, in various ways, deconstruct the void behind the material façade we call existence -- the "nothing" we all either run from or refuse to talk about. It is a CD that is not for the faint of heart or mind.

And yet, on the surface, it is certainly a very pleasant sounding collection of pieces, some of them prize-winning - the title track Interregna was finalist in the much coveted Gaudeamus competition and Arms of Morpheus won the Kranichsteiner Music Prize -, all beautifully played by the best musicians of the avant-garde in Southern California, and all luminescently placid. It could be a perfect ambient album, if you aren't in the mood to pay close attention. On the surface there doesn't appear to be a great deal of activity in the music, but like Henry James in The Beast in the Jungle, Osborn manages to create a great deal of tension. In his Sleep, In the Shape of My Body, the second cut on the album, you wait on the edge for the slightest warbles which stand for the, considerable, climaxes of the work. In Arms of Morpheus the cleansing grand pauses between the beginning phrases gradually erode, exposing the connective musical tissue. Note that it is the silences not the sound that is "corrupted."

The music is generally very soft, the texture spiritual (if I may use the term in this context) and unruffled, the musical gestures gently discontinuous and aloof. This might bring to mind the music of Morton Feldman who frames each unique pianissimo sound with silence. But Osborn's extra quiet sonorities are not at all like Feldman's, who, in comparison to Osborn, seems like such a "material guy." Osborn's sounds and rather complex compositional strategies bring to mind the underlying immutable laws of physics and, perhaps, metaphysics. And, of course, under all of that - that VOID. If we peel back with our mental fingernails the flat background of what we perceive to the far horizon, chip away at the paint supplied by our senses, what lies behind that?

This CD, therefore, is worth a great deal more than nothing - it is worth every penny what you would pay for it.

--- Igor Korneitchouk

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