Much of what today passes for “new music” vacillates between copycat minimalism or twice reworked atonality, both of which tendencies tend to end up sounding “same old.” So much for “new” and so much for “music.”

So it is with immense pleasure that I welcome the release of Richard Carr’s Landscapes and Lamentations, the beautiful and latest about-to-be-released offering from the pleasantly unpredictable Neuma Records.

First, I hang my head in shame and confess I had neither heard of Richard Carr nor listened to his music. Now that I have, I am a convert. His is tuneful, often melancholy, occasionally joyful, always melodic, never jagged. Though once every so often spiced by a fleeting touch of dissonance Carr’s creations tend to remain assonant and opposite to the trendiness of Second Viennese School rip-offs.

In the very good company of the sterling and indispensable American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME), whose members Laura Lutzke: violin, Ben Russell: violin, Caleb Burhans: viola, and Clarice Jensen: cello play perfectly as if they were one, and augmented by piano and guitar, and now and then by Carr himself sitting in with his violin, the dozen tracks have titles that hint at the bucolic and the haunting. Several of Carr’s compositions have been notated, some are improvisatory in nature, all are evocative of landscapes near to the composer’s home in the Hudson Valley.

Carr writes: “Through no conscious plan, my music, over the last several years, has ended up evoking a strong connection to nature… For those of us who are old enough to remember, the formal study of musical composition in the 1970’s (when I first jumped in) was almost completely focused on the organization of musical phenomena…as first presented by the Second Viennese school in the early 20th century. Tonality had been transcended… Any young composer who gave off the slightest scent of tonality was considered either a sell-out or a rube. It wasn’t until the tail end of the 20th century that the cautious members of the academy began to consider anything besides the Modernists of the mid-20th century seriously.”

We sell-out rubes that still love music that embraces melody as part and parcel of our listening habits are oh-so-glad to have Richard Carr around.

Rafael de Acha © 2022

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