You know how every so often you find a new disc of music that you know instantly will be a personal favourite and possibly define your musical interest for months to come? I have just listened to such a disc: Invisible Curve by the Azure Ensemble. The Azure Ensemble is a truly innovative chamber music group from New York City, in which the prominent instruments are flute, viola, harp, piano, and cello. The piccolo is often substituted for the flute because the ensembles leader is a renowned master of contemporary piccolo music (apparently there is such a thing! How cool!) The Invisible Curve is their first recording, featuring the works of Karen Tanaka and Chen Yi, two contemporary composers. The music is relentlessly new, but also unabashedly beautiful. I thought immediately of Messeian, and apparently Bartok was an influence on Chen Yi. Since these are two of my favourite composers, it is perhaps not surprising that I enjoyed this disc so much.
One of the many noteworthy things about the Azure Ensemble is that they specialize in the works of living woman composers. Both of the composers featured on Invisible Curve are women. This got me to thinking. Why are there so few well-known women composers? Women have played an important role in every area of creative impression: they are famous novelists, painters, poets, and musicians. In popular music, there are any number of well-regarded songwriters. But within “classical” or “serious” music, it seems like the work of women composers gets very little attention. This means that the world is overlooking fully half of its talent pool.
I would resist thinking of Invisible Curve as a recording of music by women. I can’t imagine anyone could discern—or even care about—the gender of the composer from listening to the music. Invisible Curve is simply an amazing debut recording of wonderful music performed with exemplary musicianship. But you can't help but think of all the music we're all missing out on because of the masculine bias of the musical world. Maybe the Azure Ensemble will help to change that. I am pretty sure that when I look back on this post bar period of my life, this will be the disc I remember.