Flight to Freedom
In My Heart
A Lover’s Lament
Return Of The Brave
Lullaby For Madeline
“All compositions written, arranged and performed/programed by Nick Davis”
Nick Davis (keyboard, computers)
Dan Carney (violin)
Recorded from July 2005 to February 2006 in West Leederville and Bonsai Recording Studio, Perth, Western Australia
Reviewed by: William Yeoman
Reviewed: March 2007
CD No: ND009
Duration: 44 minutes
“Candescence” is Perth composer Nick Davis’s most definitive statement yet regarding the direction of his stylistic development. After initially exploring World and New Age genres (beginning with the highly successful 1997 album “Tears of the Moon”), Davis released “Eclipse” in 2003, on which he explored a much broader range of styles, including classical. His following disc, “Tales of a Summer Past” can be seen as a firm transition to the light classical or neo-classical world of “Candescence”.
Davis recorded “Candescence” using two Personal Computers and a midi keyboard. One PC runs Logic Audio and the other runs Kontakt. Both are interfaced with Echo Mia soundcards. The data is imputed into the Logic PC via the keyboard, which triggers sound-samples loaded into Kontakt. These digitally sampled sounds come from two sound libraries: the East West Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra sample library (gold edition) and the East West PMI Bösendorfer 290 piano library.
The results, while not wholly convincing in terms of instrumental fidelity, are nevertheless astonishing when taken on their own terms. Certainly, Davis is aware of the need to compromise: “I am acutely aware that there are limitations with using sample libraries. There are some pieces that cry out for the ‘human’ touch – where the samples do not have the right feel or emotion. As a result, some compromises have to be made during the composition and recording process.
“There are also some instruments that don’t sample all that well. A classic example of this is the solo violin (Davis uses a ‘real’ violin, played by Dan Carney, on ‘In My Heart’). I have yet to hear a totally convincing sampled solo violin. The purists are often appalled by the fact that I do not use real musicians. They can be quite confronted by this. But the reality is that my music would never be heard if it were not for a couple of networked PCs running a virtual recording studio and a virtual orchestra at my disposal. I simply don’t have the resources or the means to have my music recorded by a real orchestra.”
The use of computer-generated orchestral music has for some time provided an economical alternative to using the ‘real’ thing for those working on television commercials, documentaries and feature films, helping to vividly communicate a composer’s intentions while allowing full control over every aspect of the creative process.
Film music is actually what comes to mind when listening to “Candescence”. All the works are largely built on variation principles: a recurring central idea undergoes melodic, rhythmic and harmonic changes, supported by variations in texture and timbre. The language is firmly tonal, broadly traditional classical but with a contemporary accent reflecting Davis’s pop background. The ‘instrumentation’ ranges from full orchestral through chamber to solo piano.
Highlights include ‘Flight to Freedom’, in which a toccata for solo piano opens out into expansively scored passages for woodwind and brass; the Brahmsian ‘In My Heart’ scored for a very un-Brahmsian combination of piano, violin, cello and flute; the Albinoni-meets-Piazzolla dreaminess of ‘Yearning’; and ‘Lullaby for Madeline’, a charming work for solo piano that seems to reinterpret both the first movement of Mozart’s Piano Sonata, K331, and Schumann’s Opus 68/5 in contemporary mode.
Davis’s gift for melody and an instinctive grasp of orchestral colouring definitely outweigh the absence of large-scale development and some undisciplined voice-leading, however I would like to have heard some genuine codas in place of the abrupt cadences with which some of the pieces end.
“Candescence” contains some attractive and enjoyable music, written in a light classical vein, from a composer with obvious talent. But you do get the feeling that Nick Davis’s best work is yet to come.