PRISM Quartet

The Calls of Gravity

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“Gravity, magnetism, waves, wind — the common denominator in these natural phenomenon is a strong, forceful core of power. Much music that draws inspiration from nature is visually evocative, and paints a picture of natural scenes. David Laganella’s work is focused on a more elemental approach, opting instead to build the texture of the music itself around a fundamental energy that is the essence of the relationship between the earth, the oceans, and the heavens. A sense of gravitational force drives these compositions, pulling and pushing in sound and gesture around an elemental, immovable presence.

Guest Artists:
The PRISM Quartet; Marilyn Nonken (piano); Ensemble CMN

Record Label / Catalogue Number:
New Focus Recordings

Release Date:
January 01, 2011



  • "For Laganella,“The Calls of Gravity is a reference to a technique that is prevalent in many of my works in which musical objects are attracted towards each other, some objects with greater mass than others. The tidal cover image is an apt metaphor for my musical process, where gravity dictates the movement of sounds that swirl like waves around a central core of energy or the power that pulls waves on to the shore line then decimate to transparency, ultimately pulled back to repeat the process.”"

    - Peter Burwasser

  • "These recent works by composer David Laganella feature a constant nattering of activity full of motion and gestures and with very little stability or repose. Leafless Trees is an energetic and coloristic set of miniature toccatas for saxophone quartet. The Prism Quartet are clearly at home here as they make the acrobatics and difficult timbral shifts sound fluid and organic. The quartet is a showy virtuosic piece and I found that I wanted to listen to the individual sound worlds of each movement for a greater amount of time that Laganella had composed. Marilyn Nonken’s two performances (The Hidden River and The Persistence of Light) features almost constant activity and flow as is fitting to the compositions’ inspirations. Both pieces function with their own internal logic through a linear form that eschews repetition for constant development. These pieces are based on textures instead of gestures with broad dramatic shapes to guide the listener. Harmonies are dense clusters which occasionally relax into softer sounds. As a whole, Laganella uses the piano as a single voice with very little use of large-scale polyphony. The smaller gestures that make up the whole composition are again appropriate given his inspirations of water and light. Unattainable Spaces stays true to the sound world that Laganella has presented thus far. Tight dissonances are the glue that bind this ensemble (string trio, clarinet, and percussion) into a single unified instrument. The language is equally sinewy and slippery as it progresses from one moment to the next. In a refreshing change of pace, the final composition played by Ensemble CMN has smooth edges and a more tender touch. Sundarananda for flute, cello, and guitar, is a compellingly understated piece built of slower moving lyrical lines sometimes punctuated by more hectic activity. The trio waxes and wanes and is full of breath. Short spiky gestures that become the mainstay of Laganella’s later compositions (this work is the earliest on the disc – 2004) are given resonant space. A tight control over the dramatic arch is still maintained. I’m not sure what has happened in the past 7 years to move Laganella’s music into a more hectic and manic direction but I hope he will still draw upon the serene contemplations he had when composing Sundarananda."

    - Jay Batzner, Laganella: The Calls of Gravity, April 26, 2011.

  • "David Laganella has released a disc on the New Focus label entitled The Calls of Gravity. The composer writes that the title “is a reference to a technique that is prevalent in many of my works in which musical objects are attracted towards each other, some objects with greater mass than others.” This plays out in music that is more interested in fierce gestures and active textures than melody or harmonic progression. In Leafless Trees, The Prism Saxophone Quartet creates molten sound images, with bent pitches, carefully shaped vibrato and alternately frantic and static gestures. The deformations of sound that make sax piece so striking are less accessible on the piano, and The Hidden River is less successful for it. I found The Persistence of Light, the second of the two piano pieces on the disc, to be more effective because of the clarity of the dichotomy between aggressive and lyrical modes of expression. Sundarananda, a trio inspired by woodworker George Nakashima, is the exception to the aggressive tone that predominates on the disc, being gentler and more lyrical, with hints of folk melody. Laganella has enlisted some superb performers here, including Ensemble CMN, but especially Prism and pianist Marilyn Nonken who bring plenty of fire to their performances. "

    - James Primosch, "Gravity Calling": The Calls of GRavity review, February 12, 2011.