Composer Rain Worthington: Dream Vapors — watch the interview, read the review
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American composer Rain Worthington channels her spirit through the medium of chromatics; repetitive descending half step fragments become gateways to her deeply personal sound world. Worthington’s 2016 Navona Records release Dream Vapors expresses poignantly, the composer’s fascination with reality and unreality, how modality and meditative pulse can channel and inform. There are seven tone poems on this disc, each illustrative of Worthington’s fascinating and idiomatic subconscious.
Shredding Glass, Reversing Mirrors in the Quiet, Tracing a Dream, Fast Through Dark Winds, Within a Dance, Yet Still Night and Of Time Remembered are indeed vaporous; reflections on emotional remembrance, cathartic experience, continuation and disintegration. The composer has not charted an easy journey for her listeners, yet when embraced with open mind and ears, the cumulative effect of these dramatic meditative projections in sound is cleansing. Outstanding and beautifully balanced audio engineering adds luster to performances by the Czech Philharmonic (Shredding Glass, Yet Still Night); Moravian Philharmonic (Reversing Mirrors in the Quiet, Fast Through Dark Winds, Within a Dance, Of Time Remembered ) and Russian Philharmonic (Tracing a Dream).
Shredding Glass for Orchestra (2004) is Worthington’s painful memory of the Twin Towers attack of 9/11/2001. Eerie descending chromatics, like those drifting pieces of paper fluttering down from the devastated buildings we saw and remember so well; a tonal mood of impending calamity given weight by chilling low orchestral grumblings and insistent rhythmic pulses of foreboding; an isolated piano fragment one might hear from outside a nearby apartment building drifts briefly into then out of the haunting soundscape. These terse sonic subtexts finally culminate after uninterrupted anxiety and horror in an inevitable drift, like the dust clouds after the collapse; no resolution, no peace. The incomprehensible expressed in sound. Powerful.
Worthington describes Reversing Mirrors in the Quiet for Small Orchestra (2014) as “the subtle shifting of perceptions between reflection, translucence and transparency.” Her choice of dark, enigmatic harmonic colors hints at lessons yet to be learned and leaves the listener pondering the composer’s sound vocabulary in reverse order - translucence, transparency and when all is said and done, reflection. Something about mirrors unsettles some corner of our collective psyche and Rain Worthington explores these goblins with salutary conviction and insight. In Tracing a Dream for Orchestra (2009) Worthington adds occasional mallet percussion to brighten, like sunlight streaking through storm clouds, otherwise dark orchestral imagery.
Fast Through Dark Winds for Small Orchestra (2013) describes a fearful dream experienced by the composer. The imagery is of a bicyclist whose brakes have failed, careening through dark night fog. No doubt triggered by Worthington’s personal unease about her family history, Fast Through Dark Winds is a latter day Legend of Sleepy Hollow. No headless horseman, rather the fear of losing one’s psychic head gives the work frisson.
Within a Dance: A Tone Poem of Love for Small Orchestra (2012) speaks to humankind’s predilection to reflect on events long past, while Yet Still Night: A Nocturne for Orchestra (2001) seeks comfort in resignation as the composer makes clear in her annotation, “dreams and conflict will continue, insistent and inconsolable.”
Of Time Remembered, the last piece on the disc deserves its “Proustian memory” analogue. Descending chromatic fragments, terse repeating sequences and an ambiguous harmonic structure help convey the composer’s artistic ambition to tap into “subconscious rooms and pathways where memories play like shadows cast against a screen of emotion.”
There is nothing accidental or contrived about Rain Worthington’s fixation on troubling realities in Dream Vapors. Her grandmother and mother succumbed to Vascular Dementia disease. Worthington recounts how these experiences so close to her own psychic wellbeing have made her “acutely aware of the tenuousness of ‘reality’ and how fragile the fine lines are drawn between real, imagined or dream perceptions.”
Rain Worthington’s Dream Vapors CD is an attempt to understand through music, the whirlpool into which her loved ones descended against their conscious will and never returned, even as their corporeal bodies remained behind. Heady stuff, good for the soul.
All proceeds from sales of Dream Vapors accrue to the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund.
Daniel Kepl | Performing Arts Review
INTERVIEW WITH COMPOSER RAIN WORTHINGTON
"Of Time Remembered" by Rain Worthington
Composer Rain Worthington/photo by Lana Ortiz
Rain Worthington: DREAM VAPORS
Rain Worthington - Composer Portrait - Shredding Glass
Yet Still Night - nocturne for orchestra (opening excerpt)
Rain Worthington Visits PARMA Recordings