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Recordings

The Music of Joseph Dubiel
11 May 2006

The Music of Joseph Dubiel

Joe Dubiel is a well known and accomplished music theorist, affable, pleasant in demeanor, learned and astute, and above all friendly in a field that has its thorns and brambles.

The Music of Joseph Dubiel

Mimmi Fulmer, soprano; Jeffrey Farrington, piano; Donald Palma, double bass; Michael Webster, bass clarinet; The Pro Arte Quartet; The Sonare String Quartet; Hans Sturm, double bass; James Smith, conductor; Michael Webster, clarinet; Kenneth Goldsmith, violin; Karen Ritscher, viola; Norman Fischer, cello

Centaur CRC 2661 [CD]

$15.99  Click to buy

He's been an active member of the theoretical community for at least two decades now, teaches at Columbia University, has co-edited the evergreen Perspectives of New Music, and published a quite impressive body of work, some of it devoted to elucidating the inimitable thoughts of Milton Babbit, a veritable doyen of music theory, not given to the short and succinct in written expression.

That's Joe's professional side. Hearing this recording is like being invited to his house for a beer and a chat. Here's a side I never knew before: Joe composer.

With a dozen works in various genres done by several performance ensembles, the recording offers up a miscellany of Dubiel's compositional interests, including some very good vocal writing. Some of it is edgy, notably a setting of three songs for female voice and double bass to texts by Margaret Atwood, "Pig Song," "Owl Song," and "Siren Song." Some of it is witty: a setting of three stanzas by Gertrude Stein is just as clever as Stein's stanzas themselves. Hilda Doolittle's "At Baia" merits particularly close listening; it is a subtle work for double string quartet, string bass, and soprano.

Of the remaining works, three involve clarinet: "Down Time" for bass clarinet and piano, "Precis" for clarinet and piano, and a quartet for clarinet and strings. These are all very good, showing a nice familiarity with the instrument (perhaps another personal dimension to Dubiel?). The recording rounds out with two works for piano solo, both with enigmatic titles, "Neither Here Nor There," and "Still Getting Nowhere."

The style on the whole is American modern-expressively atonal, albeit gently so. The musicians would seem to have Princeton, Manhattan, or U. Wisconsin at Madison associations, thus they must all be friends with Joe, since he's been resident in all three locations at one time or another. And that sort of makes the whole thing a celebration of friends, all centered on one friendly guy.

Murray Dineen
University of Ottawa

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