Of Time and Place
OF TIME & PLACE
Composer Monica Houghton has a musical and academic resume that is made even more exceptional by her experiences as a true citizen of the world. Her travels around the globe have led her to incorporate non-Western instruments and musical practices into several of her compositions as well as to find inspiration trekking through Peru, or by exploring the remote and desolate areas of the American West. On CHAMBER WORKS, her debut on Navona Records, Houghton incorporates these influences along with many others to deliver eight stunning performances showcased in a variety of musical configurations.
CHAMBER WORKS opens with “Andean Suite,” a four-movement piece, that gleans its inspiration from Houghton’s journey on foot through the mountains of Peru. The sense of freedom exhibited by the opening movement, “With the Condors,” is buoyed by the closing movement, “Dance,” which employs folk music idioms of the Andes to express pure joy.
“The Twelve Causes from the Circle of Becoming” reflects the essence of Tibetan Buddhist Wheel of Life paintings. In the spirit of those paintings pianist, James Winn delivers an intricate and powerful performance.
The Argenta Trio brings the three movements of “Wilderness Portraits: Three Places in Nevada,” capturing Houghton’s quiet sense of awe at the beauty of the natural world. Three of the album’s pieces, “Three Songs without Words,” and “Stay Shadow,” and “Corpo Sonoro,” gather inspiration from poets as disparate in place and time as New Spain’s Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz, who worked in the mid-17th century and the Tang Dynasty poet Tu Fu. The four poetic pieces in “Corpo Sonoro” are here performed by pianist Halida Danova, for whom it was composed, and are based on poems by the Brazilian poet Maria Davico.
Turning her creative gaze on Beethoven, Houghton composed “Epigram,” performed by the Cleveland Chamber Collective, in response to his last quartet. The album concludes with the floating, mysterious “Sky Signs” which is, the composer says, a fantasy inspired by the fluctuating changes so common in the natural world.
With multiple awards testifying to her abilities as a composer, her works for large ensembles have been performed by an impressive array of orchestras, including the Cleveland Chamber Symphony. Among the distinguished ensembles who have commissioned, performed or recorded her chamber works are the Cleveland Chamber Collective, Cleveland Duo and James Umble, the Argenta Trio, and Panoramicos, all of which are featured on this album. Her works have been performed at festivals internationally, including the Virginia Arts Festival and Shanghai Spring International Music Festival, and presented in collaboration with the Cleveland Classical Guitar Society and the Nevada Museum of Art, among many others. In addition to her concert music, Houghton is the composer and co-librettist of an opera, The Big Bonanza, which won the New Music New England Concert Award from the Boston Metro Opera in 2010 and was premiered in a fully staged production with orchestra by Nevada Chamber Opera in April 2016.