After years of composing, playing and producing indie and punk, pianist T.C. Crosser moved towards combining chamber strings and rock/pop to tell narrative stories with instrumental music. The composer has also scored music for commercials (such as Microsoft), television (such as Visionaries: Inside The Creative Mind), and performance art companies (such as Leslie Seiters Dance). His latest release, “The Book of Arius – Act I”, is a four movement narrative for string quartet which explores three distinct points in T.C. Crosser life. The recording was done using a 14 mic array for the string quartet and then processed through a unique recipe of guitar amps, effects pedals, and a custom built plate reverb room. Now before you go off thinking about screaming electric guitars and banging drums, after reading rock and pop, remember this a classical ensemble, to all intents and purposes.
“The Book of Arius – Act I” is a beautiful, haunting, and somewhat melancholic recording, even when the strings swirl and jump. But I suppose that’s just the lugubrious effect violins and cellos have on me, no matter how they’re played. It is usually appropriate for a quartet to expand the harmonies and embellish the melodies of a musical piece, hence what would be dittos in pop music are transformed into quasi sonatas, rondos, chaconnes, and renaissance gigues in classical music. In essence, more robust and flamboyant substance.
Even if you know nothing about T.C. Crosser and the string quartet playing on these movements, after listening to the recording, it is clear that their capital strengths are versatility, sensitivity, and humility. Throughout this release, their inexhaustible flexibility, as well as their clearly attentive and humble collaborative spirit, show that this group of musicians, namely – Maria Im (Violin I), Jannina Norporth (Violin II), Kallie Ciechomski (Viola) and Caleigh Drane (Cello) represent the acme of musical professionalism.
The opening piece, “Movement I (White Sulphur Springs)”, is an enjoyable listen at the surface level, with beautiful moments couched in rich and deep textures, and also provides an engaging emotional journey, if you’re is so inclined.
The second piece, “Movement II (River City)” has moments of contrasting character – at times being deliberate and rhapsodic, and then having punchier contrapuntal textures. As in the first movement, the great delicacy with which the quartet approaches these contrasting pieces shines.
The opening notes in the third movement, “Movement III (Goose Creek)”, showcases the warm yet balanced acoustic environment found throughout this disc. The listener gets a complementary balance of proximal sounds and warm resonance; this results in a beautiful, non-distracting sound environment that serves primarily to showcase the supreme delicacy and deep preparation of the composition.
“Movement IV (Hell’s Kitchen)” is perhaps where the versatility of the quartet is most obvious. The ease and dexterity with which they execute these dramatically different characters is impressive and delightful.
At any time, throughout this recording, the quartet gives the listener the impression of coherence, which is not least attained by the consistently outstanding arrangements of the songs. The typical string quartet sound is further enhanced by the use of the effects pedals and processing which gives us a tightly hewed consonance that is singularly beautiful and intriguing. And somehow, T.C. Crosser’s work takes on a much larger scale than one expects from four instruments.