Described as “a meditation on the transitory and fragile nature of existence,” this new disc from cellist Julia Kent is wall-to-wall luxury. Her playing has been described enthusiastically since her 2007 solo debut. Her fifth long-player Temporal delivers more of her patented mix of advanced classical technique and avant-garde spirit.
These seven new works include material originally scored for theatre and dance productions. “[M]any of these pieces began as a response to a text or a choreographic concept,” she’s quoted as saying in the album’s notes, “but they all seemed to be coming from the same emotional world and it made sense to weave them together into a record.”
We hear sampled voices from one of those theatre pieces. “Conditional Futures” is one of Kent’s more ambient works. The vocals are heavily treated and low in the mix. They’re woven in, much like a series of synth lines.
Then we’re right back to “Floating City,” another of her stirring new classical numbers. This one is set to a deep, somewhat muffled beat. In lesser hands, that pairing can come off as new age camp. Never so with Kent. The same gift she has for performance lends her compositions gravitas.
More from the album’s notes: “When I perform live with dance and theatre, it makes me enormously aware of the fragility of our physical world,” Kent says. “Dancers and actors, anyone whose instrument is their body, have nothing to protect them from the rules of gravity and time. They are so strong, but they’re subject to those demands in a more extreme way because of the physicality of what they’re doing. Onstage, I have an instrument to mediate for me, but they are bare. When I work with dancers, especially, I feel as though there can be an incredible energy exchange. They create a sort of weather system on the stage.”
Kent is being somewhat humble there. It is no easy thing to be a solo artist in today’s new classical music world. Artists willing to challenge the conventions of the genre make themselves even more vulnerable.
Kent’s career is an inspiration in this sense, not just for the beauty of her work but for the nature of her vision.