Wayne Alpern The Shape of Strings Review
Wayne Alpern The Shape of Strings Review
Wayne Alpern is a New York City composer, arranger, and scholar who integrates popular and jazz idioms with classical techniques and repertoire to create a sophisticated contemporary style of cross-genre or even post-genre music. Alpern’s innovative compositions, recompositions, and rearrangements have been performed and recorded by distinguished artists from diverse musical traditions. His musical scholarship and theoretical expertise focuses on Schenkerian analysis and 20th-century music. He holds a law degree from Yale Law School and has practiced civil litigation for nearly twenty years. He taught at Mannes College of Music, Brooklyn College, Hunter College, and Cardozo Law School, worked at General Music Publishing, United Artists Music Publishing, and was Steve Reich’s editor. He is President and owner of Henri Elkan Music Publishing, Inc. and a lifetime member of the Society for Music Theory and American Musicological Society. In his capacity as Founder and Director of the internationally acclaimed Mannes Institute for Advanced Studies in Music Theory, Alpern received the highly coveted Society for Music Theory Honorary Lifetime Membership Award recognizing his “substantial and longstanding accomplishments distinguishing the recipient and our discipline through his many good works on behalf of his fellow scholars and students of music theory for our collective benefit.”
About the Album
Alpern’s latest album, The Shape of Strings, features the String Orchestra of New York City performing nine of Alpern’s original compositions. Alpern’s compositions have elements of the minimalist school of composition that are also informed by his affinity to rock, contemporary electronic music, and jazz. Alpern describes his style: “Far be it from me to venture an explanation of art, especially my own. I have no abstract aesthetic to air, no singular sounds to share, and no practiced philosophy to preach. I embrace the mythology of no school or system and lack too much the faith of any following. In fact, I have no compositional ideology at all — yet that I firmly believe. I’m in search of no novel techniques or shocking styles to bolster my collection; I have enough. It’s not more detail I seek, but greater perspective. My mind is hungry for engagement: I simply wish to explore the geography of my own imagination. I reserve the right to trust myself, yet doubt myself too. What I need to know is what do I mean? Originality is authenticity; the genuine is more precious than the great. I challenge connections between things that appear compatible, and create congruities between others that appear incompatible. I hunt for the ineffable déjà vu of recognition, as if I suddenly remembered something significant — like the shape of strings — forgotten, but always known.”
Our Favorite Tracks
Reinvention is the opening three movements, “Reinvention 1” begins our musical journey with a joyous composition that features expressive counterpoint and a catchy ostinato figure that Alpern develops through the movement. Each composition section explores new colors and densities, from entire ensemble passages to light pizzicato figures supporting romantic melodies. Monica Bauchwitz’s direction of the String Orchestra of New York City captures the playful essence of Alpern’s music and the many layers that interact with each other to form a powerful movement of musical expression.
The first movement of Divertimento, “Divertimento 1,” brings to life a romantic collection of melodies enlightened by modern harmony and rhythms. With constant motion pushing the motif through the various string sections, Alpern’s sense of orchestration and counterpoint is lovely. The piece is never too busy or clouded with unnecessary ornamentation. Instead, the playful harmoniousness and dissonances are clear and meaningful to the expression of the composition.
The Shape of Strings reflects Alpern’s keen sense of space and musical expression. The nine compositions imbue this with his idiomatic perception, striking a natural balance between activity and space, percussive phrases, and perfectly capturing beautiful melodies that will leave a lasting impression on the listener. Alpern’s extensive and scholarly understanding demonstrates his deep commitment to composition, but in the end, he releases himself from any confines and expresses himself from the heart. Well worth hearing.
The Shape of Strings
Henri Elkan Music
September 9, 2022