Roger Reynolds: For A Reason

This release has convinced me beyond a doubt that Roger Reynolds is a major compositional voice of our time, not to mention a powerhouse of ideas. Performance, recording, and documentation are beyond criticism.


Mastered by Andrew Munsey.

Featuring: Irvine Arditti (violin), Steven Schick (speaking percussionist)​​​​​, Pablo Gómez Cano (guitar), Liz Pearse (voice and piano), Paul Hembree (computer musician).

The westward panorama from Roger Reynolds’s Del Mar windows comprises not only the Pacific Ocean but also, as the light changes, his own visage and the virtual world in an easterly direction. The simultaneous, layered reflection serves somehow as an apt portrait of the composer’s many aspects – fused, recombined, shifting, mirrored – they are both here and there. And this multiplicity is deeply emblematic of the four remarkable works found in For A Reason.

The works (spanning over three decades) are the result of his intensely collaborative process with artistic friends, who, in this case, also happen to be celebrated performers: Pablo Gómez Cano (guitar), Irvine Arditti (violin), Steven Schick (percussion), and Liz Pearse (voice). The process of composer and performer finding common ground foregrounds what is, perhaps, for Reynolds the most fundamental issue at stake in creating music: “I’m interested in the whole world of how music speaks — not just what it’s saying, but how it’s saying it.” Incorporating texts by Samuel Beckett and Milan Kundera, Reynolds’s aim is not to mimic the sense of the text but to be informed by his analysis of what the writer is seeking and how they construct it.

Adding another layer to these multi-dimensional conversations is the interplay of the acoustic instruments with live computer manipulation, realized in two of the works (those in the SHARESPACE series) by artist Paul Hembree.

And, between the initial spark and the final score, how does Reynolds keep track of the developing composition? Sketchbooks. The composer (who recalls from his Detroit childhood being awestruck by his father’s intricate architectural drawings) employs a fresh notebook for each composition, using each one to imagine, plan, flesh out, add to, keep pushing, going beyond, and ultimately to bring a logic to the work. Perhaps the ‘reasons’ are embedded within, but the physical album, For A Reason, pays tribute to these intimate, handsome artifacts; a 44-page book (with illuminating essay by Thomas May), encased together with a double CD. Although it barely contains Reynolds’s boundless imaginings, it is certain to set some previously-unimagined, creative ideas into motion for the curious listener while serving as a major illumination of the composer and his work.

The stars are aligning for Pulitzer laureate, Roger Reynolds, in a singular convergence: as he approaches his 90th year later in 2024, unflaggingly dedicated to his mentorship of UCSD students, he has recently been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, his archive is the subject of a Library of Congress Special Collection, and his creative output has never been stronger. He is lovingly portrayed as the subject of a forthcoming documentary film by Kyle Johnson, FOR A REASON, and this Neuma double-album showcases the works featured in the film. 

Double CD, released May 29, 2023 on Neuma Records.

Recorded by Paul Hembree, Jacob Sundstrom, & Tornike Karchkhadze.
Mastered by Andrew Munsey.