Cross-Cultural Collaborations In Sound
Jeffrey Jacob composer
Heidi Jacob composer
Steven Block composer
Sergio Cervetti composer
Christina Rusnak composer
This exquisitely produced album embodies the beautiful art whose creation has been enabled by the newly opened cultural exchange between the United States and Cuba. Through a collection of intriguing compositions by American and American-based composers, INTERSECTIONS showcases the talents of Cuban musicians in a variety of large ensemble and chamber settings. Moreover, the pieces in the album’s contents are replete with symbols that touch on the promise of this new beginning in American-Cuban relations, and suggest some of the darkness that preceded it.
This imagery begins with Jeffrey Jacob’s Awakening, an undulating work for piano and orchestra, which is performed by the composer and the Havana National Symphony. Jacob’s composition is built around two main ideas, the most salient of which is a lyrical melodic idea that opens in the low strings, and is passed through the orchestra and modified in other ways over the course of the piece. The second building block in Awakening is the gesture of a peeling bell, which first appears in the orchestral chimes before being transformed as a gesture in the piano and, eventually, as the abrupt attack of percussion that signals the work’s conclusion.
Awakening is hopeful and grand, yet ends ambiguously. In this way, Awakening seems to signal the highest aspirations the Cuban and American people may have for their new relationship, while also reminding us that the process of restoring normality remains unfinished. Two other works on INTERSECTIONS – Heidi Jacob’s untouched by morning, untouched by noon and Christina Rusnak’s choral composition Dearly Beloved – convey similarly hopeful symbolism to that in Awakening. For example, Heidi Jacob’s work, which is composed for a small chamber ensemble, begins desolately, marked by the ominous echoes of a strummed piano. Over time, however, untouched by morning, untouched by noon becomes much more joyful, a transition made clear by the reappearance of the piano, now played in the traditional manner.
Complementarily, Sergio Cervetti’s And The Huddled Masses, for clarinet quintet, and Steven Block’s Puttin’ It Together, for two saxophones, two double basses, and drum set, make more direct references to Cuba, its culture, and its history with the United States. Puttin’ It Together, with its deep and compelling jazz allusions, may be the most remarkable, as one of the saxophone parts imitates the tone and performance style of a classic double reed instrument in Cuban jazz repertoire: the corneta china. On the other hand, And The Huddled Masses speaks to the legacy of immigration from Central and South America to the United States. Cervetti, who immigrated to America from Uruguay in 1962, crafts a beautiful rendering of the hope and desperation that motivates so many to leave their homelands, including Cuba, for refuge in the United States.