Friday , February 23 2024
eric stokes the lyrical pickpocket

Music Reviews: Guitarist Matteo Liberatore’s ‘Solos,’ Eric Stokes Retrospective ‘The Lyrical Pickpocket’

I was struck, in very different ways, by two recent albums from Innova, the label of the American Composers Forum.

Matteo Liberatore – Solos

Guitarist Matteo Liberatore explores a range of abstract sonic effects drawn from an acoustic guitar on his album Solos. Unconventional tools and methods pluck a variety of jolts and scratches, arpeggio sequences, and melodic and chordal motifs from his chosen workhorse. The packaging supplies precious little information about the featured techniques (they include metal springs, a bass bow, and alligator clips) but that’s just as well, as this is the kind of release best listened to with no expectations and a minimum of intellectualizing. It’s the record of one man’s focused attack on the most common of instruments using uncommon methods.

Little on here will soothe the savage breast. But there’s a lot to make you prick up your ears if you approach it with an open mind. The eerily haunting “Alberto” and the ghostly wails and pointed accents of “Untitled #9,” whose title expressly evokes abstract visual art, contrast with the smoky melodies of the almost-conventional “Causeway.” The dizzying “Ubiquitous,” funny and just short of annoying, and the teeth-chattering tremolos of “Agnes” and “MMXVI” mingle with the breathy hisses of “Fisherman” and the deconstructed Spanish flavors of “Coral.”

Eric Stokes – The Lyrical Pickpocket

The Lyrical Pickpocket, a career-spanning sample of music from composer Eric Stokes (1930-1999), provides a more joyful and traditional musical experience. The influence of Charles Ives is very evident and Stokes’ voice rings with 20th-century Americana, but Rimsky-Korsakov and even Stravinsky come to mind as often as Bernstein and Copland do.

These new recordings solicited and curated by oboist Merilee Klemp reveal several of Stokes’ many sides. The jokey third movement of the “Woodwind Quintet No. 2” leads into a dark, thoughtful finale. Soprano Maria Jette sings the five-part “Song Circle” boldly, the music contemplative but spiced with drama and humor. The beautifully produced album boasts exquisite performances from Minnesota-area instrumentalists: Klemp herself, the Riverside Winds, flautist Trudy Anderson, harpist Kathy Kienzle, pianist Sonja Thompson, and on “Give & Take” – an emotional little piece for oboe and cello – cellist Jim Jacobson.

A sense of calm defines the “Four Songs” scored for soprano and oboe. Even in this work from early 1960s Stokes seems to have been an artist in full command of his muse. By contrast, the title suite from 1990, inspired by and incorporating old American folk songs, romps through varied terrain: playful, folksy, dissonant, tuneful, hymn-like.

All artists are “lyrical pickpockets,” picking bits they like and rearrange them into something new. Eric Stokes was a master picker, and Klemp has done an invaluable service by picking and presenting his music so well.

Matteo Liberatore’s Solos and Eric Stokes’ The Lyrical Pickpocket are available now.

About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is Publisher and Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Music, where he covers classical music (old and new) and other genres, and Culture, where he reviews NYC theater. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting at you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. Jon also writes the blog Park Odyssey at where he is on a mission to visit every park in New York City. He has also been a part-time working musician, including as lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado.

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