Mr. Campbell gave the premiere of Jason Eckardt’s "Practical Alchemy" for solo cello. The composer describes the piece, which nods to medieval experiments with alchemy, as going through metastatic processes that alter the properties of its materials. It begins with short, minimal gestures — plucked tones, rustling sounds, barely audible sustained tones, bow scrapes — separated by daring silences. Slowly, the gestures coalesce into segments, phrases and, eventually, near-frenzied episodes. Mr. Campbell played it commandingly, especially the silences.
– Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times
Jason Eckardt’s "The Silenced," which had its premiere in Ms. Chase’s recital, begins with stuttering breathing. Sobs and gagged consonants are amplified through the flute. Eventually, these techniques give way to fragments of more traditional sounds, charting a progression from muzzled expression toward liberation. It’s in such juxtapositions of extended technique and conventional playing that unorthodox sounds can feel especially meaningful. They can deepen the field of emotional perspective, the way mimetic nature sounds in Vivaldi’s "Four Seasons" — rain, thunder or birdsong — push into focus the more overtly "man-made" melodies, creating the illusion of different planes of representation.
– Corinna de Fonseca-Wollheim, The New York Times
Jason Eckardt clearly rejects the argument, made with increasing frequency, that the mid-20th-century atonalists were working toward a musical dead end. Harmonically and rhythmically his music thrives on complex, constantly changing relationships, but like many composers under 40 (he was born in 1971) he tempers the more prickly, jagged elements of the post-tonal style with humor and eclecticism. What holds your attention in his music is not its ingenuity but its relentless energy and drive.
He also has a knack for defying expectations. Drawn to Minimalist sculpture — Richard Serra’s "Tilted Arc" adorns the CD cover, an allusion to the opening work, "After Serra" (2000) — he resists using the Minimalist musical vocabulary to evoke it. That resistance eventually evaporates, at least partly. The final four minutes of the score is an eerie stasis of slow textural shifts and quietly scampering solos over sustained tones. But that comparative serenity is hard won, coming after 10 minutes of vigorous, high-energy counterpoint. The most ambitious work here, the 2-movement, 27-minute "Polarities" (1998), also begins with an eventful, virtuosic opening section that gives way to quiet spareness. But the proportions are reversed; here the slow, introspective writing is the center of gravity.
- Allan Kozinn, The New York Times
Mr. Eckardt's ['Aperture'] could pass as a score by one of his elders: he writes in the eclectic style that has become the modernist lingua franca, to the extent that there is such a thing. His melodies are spiky and bristling with energy; his rhythms are sharply defined and attention-grabbing; and if his harmonic language draws freely on dissonance, it is accessible and seductive. Its most striking moments were its vibrant clarinet writing, deftly played by Brent Besner.
But Mr. Eckardt also knows how to use silence effectively (and affectingly). The final section, revisiting a notion touched on in passing earlier in the work, juxtaposes silences, pianissimo rippling at the top of the keyboard and short bursts of harsh but muted string timbre. The more extroverted writing at the start of the work seemed calculated to put the listener on edge, but as it turned out, the quieter finale accomplished that more thoroughly.
- Allan Kozinn, The New York Times
Mr. Eckardt's language is at once sophisticated and simple, his 'A Glimpse Retraced' being centered on a brilliant, fragmented, irregular piano toccata that kept disintegrating into scales, with imposing solo interventions for violin, piccolo, clarinet and cello.
- Paul Griffiths, The New York Times
Just as, in architecture, postmodernism has
evolved into a generic, suburban mess, and echt-modernism is being
reexamined by serious observers, this music of complexity appeals more
and more to those us of bored by the pabulum of so many of the
neotonalists. This is not a debate of isms. For thoughtful listeners,
there is good stuff being written in a variety of styles. But it is
very refreshing to hear new music written in a polytonal, serial
framework, albeit not in a doctrinaire, Schoenbergian manner. Eckardt
certainly does write in a complex way, throwing out furious washes of
notes, now exploding in knuckle-full blasts of energy, then subsiding
into mysterious cascades of quiet polytonality.
At 32, Jason Eckardt was the youngest composer
represented. His piece 'After Serra,' a musical response to the
sculpture of Richard Serra, moves toward a reconciliation of uptown and
downtown. The inspiration and much of the extreme, almost experimental
sonic character come from downtown, the language and craftsmanship from
"Sometimes music can leave you speechless -- all
sorts of speechless. After an inattentive first listen, 'Out of Chaos',
the new CD of chamber music composed by Jason Eckardt, left me with a
what-the-hell sort of speechlessness.... Needless to say this CD was
just too hard to ignore.... You might stumble, as I did, during your
first encounter with Eckardt's hyperactive uber-expressiveness. But as
your senses enjoy being overwhelmed and you begin to relax into
Eckardt's stringent music, try to refrain from analytical listening and
simply enjoy the beautiful flow of morphing timbres.... While I
understand Eckardt's connection to the dwarfing and disorienting
feeling evoked by the huge, monolithic steel sculptures by Richard
Serra that inspired 'After Serra', I sense a closer affinity in his
music to the sculptures of Sarah Sze: giant aggregates of sprawling
material that jettison against the laws of gravity and pixilate into
tiny, intricate worlds that lay awaiting discovery entirely separate
from the whole." [ complete review ]
plays with ideas of structure and timbre, leaving the listener
disoriented at times. This is not an unpleasant experience. For
example, there are moments of haunting, ethereal textures paired with
moments of exhausting, driving activity. Passive listening simply will
not do." [ complete review ]
works employ] drastic changes on the musical surface that create a
music] explodes in violent outbursts of intensely controlled contour
and rhythmic pulse bringing to mind the figuration of Berio, the
gestures of Boulez and the spontaneity of Coltrane."
the meatiest segment of the program, pianist Jason Hardink wondrously
plunged through Jason Eckardt's 'A Glimpse Retraced,' a work that
exploded like spontaneous combustion, pushing the instrument to its
extremes with pungent dissonances, improvisatory rhythms remarkably
cued with the ensemble and an often spread-eagled virtuosic technique."
one composer comes to mind on listening to the opening ensemble work
'After Serra', it's Varese. (Maybe filtered through Birtwistle.) Strong
gestures, recognisable contours and vivid contrasts define the music at
every level. 'Tangled Loops', performed by Nonken and soprano
saxophonist Taimur Sullivan, namechecks Parker (Charlie, not Evan this
time), Coltrane and Dolphy, and is perhaps closest to the latter, in
its dramatic and dogged pursuit of the interval. It's a killer piece,
and must be a bitch to play -- hats off for Sullivan. Pianist Nonken is
no slouch either as performers go, as PT readers may well remember, and
'A Glimpse Retraced' is a chamber concerto for her and flute / piccolo,
clarinet, violin and cello. Proof that there's plenty of life left yet
in the old Pierrot line-up, it's also the most accessible piece on the
disc, alternating tough angular lyricism -- Birtwistle once more comes
to mind -- with an exploration of extreme register as chunky and funky
as mid 70s Ligeti.... ['Out of Chaos'] is as strong and solid as
Richard Serra's 'Tilted Arc', a photograph of which adorns the cover."
"Jason Eckardt's 'Echoes' White Veil' [features]
dazzling outbursts of quasi-improvisatory energy."
"While I probably can't persuade those who are
baffled by Eckardt's ecstatic, free-form study ['Echoes' White Veil'],
I can say that after repeated hearings, the work grows even more
interesting. Most people hear new works once, and only once, which is
unfortunate since works like Eckardt's rarely reveal all of their
secrets in one pass."
"In Jason Eckardt's 'Tangled Loops' (1996), sax
player Chien Kwan Lin never dipped below what Schoenberg called a
'mezzo-fortissimo,' wherein its glory, actually. The reed's
fast-filigree bravura at one point backs the poor slow-of-speech,
block-chord piano into a corner, after which many mixing-it-up,
calming-down, mixing-it-up again events follow -- a guy piece, frankly,
and none the worse for it."
"Jason Eckardt (b.1971) is an American composer new
to me who composes exhilarating music that is easier to enjoy than to
write about.... 'After Serra' seeks to echo the sculptor's precarious
balance 'verging on collapse' (see cover illustration) with aggressive,
volatile outbursts giving way to emergence of the instrumentalists as
soloists, but without final stability being achieved. In 'Polarities'
the instruments are 'drawn to and away from each other in myriad ways',
frenetic activity giving way to final stasis. 'Tangled Loops'
celebrates the virtuosity of Coltrane, Parker and Dolphy, with
overlapping reappearances of material and furious uninhibited
virtuosity at the limits of possibility. 'A Glimpse Retraced' is for
five instruments, four of them accompanying the piano in permutated
combinations, duets comprising the most extended passages.... It is all
music which grabs and holds attention, and makes you want to play the
pieces again to get closer to the composer's mind and procedures." [
"But it was Eckardt's
spectacular, monumental 'Transience' that finally revealed the full
scale of the marimba's range and the full extent of Nakura's
"New Yorker Jason
Eckardt brought the concert to a superb ending with his six-part
"Tongues" pushing Deborah Kayser’s versatile vocals to the
limits. With support from Peter Neville’s percussion, Kayser
made the audience breathless with her emotionally charged phonetics."
'Echoes' White Veil'...was composed of darting, exuberant decorations
of static harmonies somewhere between Szymanowski and Luciano
Berio....The impressive second part of the piece provided a progressive
stilling of the activity, in blocks separated by silences."
"Eckardt was a rock
guitarist until he heard Webern. ['Echoes' White Veil'] could easily be
the result, pitting out-of-control frenzy with single quiet gestures
separated by long empty spaces."
"Nakura made wondrous
sense out of...Eckardt's colorful, emotionally resonating
'Echoes' White Veil' (1996) exhibited an even more striking contrast of
mood and texture. An extremely active and brilliant toccata-like
section takes fire-breathing virtuosity to the limit, followed by an
awesome silence where time seems to stop. A few mere wisps of sound
were suspended in a state of almost total immobility, in reverse
proportion to the density of the music which preceded it. The virtuoso
music returns briefly before the veil is drawn again and the music ends
quietly. Nonken gave a performance which went from controlled fury to
eerie stillness, making the most of its dramatic impact."
"Jason Eckardt's 2000
'After Serra,' which concluded the evening, takes its name from its
source of inspiration: the sculpture of Richard Serra. The dual nature
of solidity and fragility in Serra's work is expressed musically by
dense, manic outbursts separated by nervously quiet interludes, both
rendered in vivid colors."
"There were compelling
elements in a Jason Eckardt's virtuosic piano works. For one thing, the
lyrical episodes had a certain freshness, the dissonances subtly molded
into interesting phrases."
25-minute work...began brilliantly, with an overdriven, virtuosic
clarinet line.... Gradually the spotlight moved to combinations of
strings, flute and clarinet, percussion and piano, sometimes in
opposing groups, sometimes in close-knit counterpoint, and sometimes
collaborating on eerily striking sound effects. Particularly affecting
were a haunting slow section, in the middle of the work, and the
pointillistic final section that emerged from it."
amplified wind quartet '16' (2003), [is] a compelling selection more
vibrant than a hive full of honeybees in mid sugar rush. It's a
pleasure to report that all its jittery energy and pervasive use of
extended techniques is imaginatively harnessed in service to a sturdy
binary structure outlining two large crescendos."
an intelligent, erudite composer who knows and sees a great deal."
"Jason Eckardt (b.
1971) is the youngest composer here who relates to the so-called "New
Complexity school", and his music has many affinities with that of
Ferneyhough, Finnissy or Dillon. His 'Echoes' White Veil' is a fairly
complex and technically taxing piece of music. It falls roughly into
two sections : the opening section is, to say the least, hyperactive
and ends with a long-reverberating chord followed by a long pause. The
second section is somewhat calmer, the music more rarefied with many
silences though with huge dynamic contrasts. The piece is written
without bar-lines and has some improvisatory character, the whole
giving the impression of a restless, sometimes violent burst of
creative energy. The music is again very taxing and [pianist] Marilyn
Nonken rightly remarks that 'the effort required to play the piece is
an integral part of its aesthetic'. Quite an impressive achievement in
its own right."
"The piece on
["American Spiritual"] that conveys most strenuously a quality of
immediacy and improvisation is Eckardt's 'Echoes' White Veil,' whose
title implies some of its dream-like, tentative and mystical nature,
but none of its athletic jumpiness and palpable intricacies."
"Mr. Eckardt is young
and striving hard for ambitious time-warp effects."
'Echoes' White Veil' (1996), for solo piano, was filled with a tumult
of sound and fury in its outer two sections, but its slow middle part
was static, bare, and void of activity. This often-demanding piece was
played intensely and with flair by John McGinn, who brought out its
brilliant, mercurial writing to dazzling effect."
"Eckardt's music has an
agile, organic energy coupled with a finely-judged sense of balance
between small-scale details. The instrumental virtuosity of the
improviser is also of major importance - witness the thrilling
pyrotechnics of 'Tangled Loops', a jazzy seven-minute accompanied
cadenza for saxophone. These pieces call for very little repose, on the
part of either performer or listener; a good deal more atonal than most
jazz, the works nonetheless have a brightly kinetic appeal in common
with the best improvised music, and are both enjoyable and ultimately
rewarding of close attention"
"Jason Eckardt created
intricate piano explosions to echo the virtuosic fireworks described in
[Les Murray's] "Performance."
'Tangled Loops' was a brilliant piece on the program. This was more of
an ensemble piece, rather than a saxophone solo with piano. The work's
perpetual motion continued without much of a break until the end.
Thematic ideas were well nigh incessantly bounced around between the
players. Despite having little that could be distinguishable as a
melodic line, the listener could get a sense of that the ideas and
motives introduced towards the beginning repeat throughout the work,
but in no obvious manner. Combining this aspect with the wide range and
leaps in instrumental parts made for a very appealing work."
"In the outer portions
of Eckardt's 'Echoes' White Veil' (1996), an essay in nervous energy,
long lines are thickened rather than accompanied or punctuated by
occasional chords and countermelodies. In the slower middle section,
fiercely dissonant pileups of notes explode in isolated, widely spaced
points in time."
"Despite his post-rock pedigree, Eckardt's rolling
and tumbling style reflects the New Complexity of Ferneyhough,
Finnissy, and Dillon."
"Echoes' White Veil", whose more muscular approach seems to owe more to
Cecil Taylor and Andrew Hill than to Brian Ferneyhough and James
['Multiplicities'] continues the experimental jazz parallel, but a
little more conventional than the Ferneyhough and certainly more
reminiscent of Messiaen and Birtwistle -- natural rhythms and harmonies
seem to loom large in this piece."
Hardink on Saturday night played Jason Eckardt's 10-minute "Echoes'
White Veil." The influence of piano sonatas by Pierre Boulez was
apparent. The music feels like an improvisation, but its sometimes
intricate layers of cross rhythms are carefully notated. Hardink's
performance was brilliant, with vibrant finger work and massive
not be immediately familiar, but [he is] gaining currency, slowly but
"Mr. Eckardt's music
celebrates harmonic prickliness, rhythmic complexity and a density of
ideas, and was not out of step with the style's older defenders, among
them Milton Babbitt and Donald Martino."
"Jason Eckhardt (sic),
a New York composer, has devised 'Multiplicities', an attractive flow
of gentle lines and staccato punctuations."
'Echoes' White Veil' was written for Nonken and dedicated to her. The
piece is a fascinating pastiche of musical echoes. There is a flash of
ragtime, a glimpse of operetta, a smattering of jazz. Nonken danced
through the piece, slipping instantly from one style to another."