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6th January 2008 -
Review, 'PERFECT STATE' - The Silent Ballet.


Ciarán Farrell has created a collection of compositions that are full of life and variety and maintain an element of entertainment that is lost in a lot of modern 'classical' music. Perfect State is a compilation of his work and is considered his first solo album due to the fact that his previous releases have been in collaboration with other composers.

The music on Perfect State walks from a string quartet to a guitar and soprano saxophone duo to flute and vibraphone infused compositions. The combinations of certain instrumental textures give the tracks a certain amount of warmth while they can also evoke a feeling of mystery or unrest, although the music is not always full of mystery -- to the contrary -- a good number of them are rather playful and full of joy. And despite the fact that the compositions tend to be very simple, they also draw in the listener with a deeper story than the surface simplicity hints. Perfect State lacks the dissonance and complexity of many modern 'classical' compositions, but this is a very wise choice considering Farrell's apparent strength for making very approachable yet interesting music.

The cohesiveness of the album is hindered slightly due to the variety of instruments and moods, but like any good compilation, track choice helps make the mix solid. The beginning works are played by the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and sound very traditional in terms of classical composition, then the guitar/soprano sax combo played by Craig Ogden and Gerard McChrystal surprises the listener out of their "oh, this is just another classical composition" malaise, while the flute/vibraphone combo played by Sinead Farrell and Roger Moffat creates a new texture for the listener. Farrell then decides to mix it all up and adds saxophone to the quartet -- and then a full orchestra. I never felt like I was stuck in a very stiff, traditional compositional setting, instead I felt like I was at a show at the club and listening to the latest post-rock band rip out another crowd pleaser (to all you doubters of the 'classical' genre, if you replaced the instruments being played on this album with distorted guitars, basses, drums, and whatever rockin' instruments you may want, you would have yourself a true post-rock album of the most epic sort).

A moment should be spent addressing the performers. In normal rock and roll, the performers are generally the composers as well (this is avoiding the top 40 producer written 'hits'), but with compositions of the classical nature, the composer rarely performs his/her own piece. So a part of the joy of this album is listening to the way the musicians perform Farrell's pieces. The dynamics are stunning and I can only image that Farrell is very pleased with the performance of his pieces.

This album is a joy to listen to and is a pleasant surprise coming from the Nuevo Classical scene. It isn't complete pop nonsense and it isn't a composition so full of itself that the only person who can appreciate it is the composer. It strikes a nice balance between interesting complexity and just plain listenabiltiy.

- Greg Norte

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About Ciarán

Ciarán Farrell is a full time composer living and working in Ireland. On graduating from Trinity College Dublin he was dubbed by then head of department, Hormoz Farhat, as being, ' of the most promising composition students I have had in a teaching career spanning some thirty five years.' Read more