The Northern Shore alludes in its title to Gaspé Peninsula, eastern Quebec, where the St. Lawrence flows into the Atlantic. The four other titles on this disc lack such site specificity, yet all five compositions may be heard as meditations on diffusion. The presence of each note as it appears in Barbara Monk Feldman’s music is initially concentrated, crisply defined, bright and vivid in coloration. First a flare, then a radiant halo, and a lingering fade towards silence. Whether that process is conceived in relation to perception of landscape and intensity of light over water; in terms of particular sources of sound, as in Duo for Piano and Percussion; or as aligned to an implied metaphysics, as in the piano solo The I and Thou; its impact is consistent. A kernel is cracked open, an essence percolates, a compact internal reality dissolves into otherness, and disperses.
There is beauty in these musical essays, and a kind of purity in Monk Feldman’s manner of returning to her theme. Verses for Vibraphone is a revealing title. Her compositions are, by their nature, not bound to the strictures of linear development. She writes as a poet, communicating via a glow rather than setting out to encapsulate, even on the more prosaic piano solo Clear Edge. Percussionist George Barton and pianist Siwan Rhys, joined on The Northern Shore by violinist Mira Benjamin, interpret these luminous studies in attack and decay with sensitivity and finely judged levels of energy.