The new album “Between Us All New American Art Songs For Voice & Guitar” by The Bowers Fader Duo suggests some interesting aesthetic questions. This record, made in 2019 by New Focus Recordings, is based on a nearly nineteenth-century-romantic formula: the duo for classical guitar and voice, in this case the guitarist Oren fader and the mezzo-soprano Jessica Bowers. Given these assumptions it would be almost reasonable to expect a cd based on music taken from Schubert’s lieder or from reductions of Italian operas of the same period, perhaps by Mauro Giuliani. Instead we are faced with a record of music composed by contemporary American authors such as Paul Salerni, Scott Wheeler, Tim Mukherjee and David Claman.
The result is slightly alienating: you listen to music composed with new modules, but where the attention to melodic forms is always present and worthy of high attention, in its executive form, which seems to come out of time overlap. I am not questioning the artistic quality, both by composers and performers, which is always at the highest level. My questions concern some aesthetic aspects of the music performed and recorded here. How could they be defined? Another form of neo-classicism or neo-romanticism? It would be the simplest and also the most obvious solution. What would be more banal than a group of composers who longs for a more than classical return to the past, proposing traditional compositional models in an equally traditional context with a simple dusting? Very easy. At this point I could move on to talk, to quibble about the contrasts between neo-classicism and “real” contemporary music, perhaps re-proposing the figure of Castenuovo-Tedesco and Darmstadt’s ideas …. but … how boring and what basically useless it would be? I would produce only a clone review of other clones, with no quality and no idea.
Instead, I try a different path. This music doesn’t transcend any form of nervousness. There is no atonal form. No noise. No improvisation. No random shapes. In short, none of the forms most easily ascribable to what can be easily recognized as contemporary and experimental. And if this were a new possible interpretation key? If these “dated” forms were no longer experimental and contemporary? Then the return to a voice-guitar duo like that of The Bowers Fader Duo would have a different meaning than that of yet another neoclassical revival. The return to more melodic forms could be a direct response to well-established avant-garde structures that are beginning to lose a lot of their original potential. Could it be a new avant-garde form?
Quiet is the new loud?
Is Duo voice-classical guitar the new black?