Review: Mary Jane Leach – (f)lute songs (Modern Love, Nov 2)

(f)lute songs is a collection of pieces composed by artist Mary Jane Leach, almost entirely written for sustained tones played by flutes and voice. Trio for Duo, composed in 1985, features four components, of which only three are present at a given time. The notes, created by alto flutes and voice (I had no idea there were any other sounds other than flutes until I read more about the album; the vocal drones are nearly indiscernable from the others), phase in and out of the stereo mix. Carefully played glissandos create slight dissonance, bringing natural, fluid tension into the cascading strings of pure harmonic tones. The constant movement of the separate parts allows for simultaneous resolution and introduction of new, subtle agitation; the harmonies that arise are beautiful and uneasy, never one without the other. Dowland’s Tears (2011), for nine flutes, explores similar territory, but with more movement; each instrument plays a somber descending melody at differing intervals, again creating fascinating phase effects. Semper Dolens (2018) uncovers light from darkness, with gorgeous chords rising from the melancholy phrases—the higher notes entering at around the three minute mark are breathtaking—and Bruckstück (1989) is possibly the most beautiful piece, letting the listener hear the soft breaths of the performer as they play each note. (f)lute songs is truly wonderful, captivating music, whether you want to read about the techniques used or not.