As it casually explores the trombone’s timbres, The Webster Cycles is at times lush, at times stark. Mobile-like in the way that phrases and individual notes drift in and out and twist as if blown by the wind, it is something of a musical conundrum: comfortably adrift in a sense of motionlessness yet definitely propelled by a sense of forward motion. From moment to moment, an individual voice calls out or a crowd murmurs or voices unite in contrapuntal or parallel efforts.
The Webster Cycles, an open-ended piece for any combination of wind instruments and/or voices, allows for a good bit of decision-making and improvisation on the part of the performer(s). In the present recorded version, six trombone parts were performed (via overdubbing) by noted composer/performer J.A. Deane. The result is a beautifully coherent yet ever-changing music that slowly shifts its texture and harmonic focus as if its individual parts were refractions of a giant aural prism. The wonderful, subtle inflections and tonal shadings that Deane brings to each phrase imbue the piece with a vibrant, palpable sense of energy and motion.
The piece’s score is constructed from a selection of words drawn from a Webster’s dictionary. The words become pitch sequences, or melodic phrases, that are to be played within the duration of a long breath. These sequences/phrases are grouped into seven sections, which the performer(s) may perform in any order they wish while maintaining the internal order of phrases within each section.
Like the music on the composer’s previous Cold Blue CD, from shelter (CB0018), The Webster Cycles blends the abstract with the idiomatic. Pure tones hang serenely in the air as trombonist J.A. Deane’s lively ornaments and articulations that acknowledge his instrument’s long association with various types of jazz.
“Deane is a soulfully expressive musician and, despite the calm and coolness of Peters’s music, his interpretation has immediate emotional appeal as well as seductive depth.” —Julian Cowley, The Wire
“The overlapping trombones heard in The Webster Cycles immerse you in 30 minutes of incantatory bliss—imagine floating into an ocean-sized harbor bounded by distant foghorns. Essential.” —Christopher DeLaurenti, The Stranger (Seattle)