Sonograms is a compilation of eight compositions of six contemporary classical composers from Eastern Europe and Germany. The music which, consists of shorter pieces written for a limited variety of instruments spans a period from 1963 to 1997 and gives listeners an insight into some of the new directions post-modern music was taking.
Criticizing modern music is always a daunting task. One only has to keep in mind what some of Beethoven's critical contemporaries had to say about his ninth symphony, to be very careful about one's own value judgments. One man's noise is another man's music. In a novel I happen to be reading, one of the characters talking about late 19th century music in Vienna says: "There is so much music there that is new, innovative in concept, challenging to the mind." These are words that could well apply to the music on Sonograms, but he is talking about the waltzes of Strauss. Today's challenging innovations can often become tomorrow's canon.
So if I must confess that though much of Walter Steffens' "Ecstasy" for string quartet sounded to me much like background music for a slasher flick on the first couple of hearings, I must also confess that the more I listen, the more it begins to make sense. Played here by The Panorma Quartet, the piece runs through a variety of moods and rhythms and much according to the album notes is left "in the hands of the performers." It is clearly challenging music.
Steffens is also represented by "Four Watercolors After Paul Klee," a set of musical interpretations of paintings. Each of the four is a solo piece written for a different member of the recorder family—tenor, alto, tenor and sopranino. German recorder player Benedikta Bonitz plays each of the four, as well as all the other recorder music on the album.