A Teenage Dream
(28 minutes) for Piano and CPU (2018)
Video Excerpt: A Teenage Dream
PDF Score A Teenage Dream
PDF Program Notes A Teenage Dream
Sade auf Kashmir
(21 minutes) for Cello and CPU (2018)
Video Excerpt : Sade auf Kashmir
PDF Score: Sade auf Kashmir
PDF Program Notes Sade auf Kashmir
- March 2021 Whole Note Magazine
Toronto composer/producer M.C. Maguire is a music alchemist, making sophisticated post-modern musical hybrids combining Western classical, pop, jazz and electroacoustic elements. His works often transform electronics, samples and acoustic instrument soloists into an intense wall of sound, accumulating up to 300 tracks.
Maguire’s fourth album, Saturation Velocity, is no exception, though it’s important to observe that his compositions are centred on carefully notated sheet scores, for the solo acoustic instruments at least.
According to the composer’s notes, the first track A Teenage Dream for piano & CPU (“ for the less-computer-savvy like me) is based on four songs by pop singer/songwriter Katy Perry. Other source material used – to contrast the pop elements – are bits of Thomas Tallis (“for religiosity,” comments the composer), plus two passages from Wagner’s Das Rheingold. The structure of the work consists of four large murals each inside an Alban Berg-ian “forward/retrograde ordering,” that formally connects the murals. But what I hear is essentially a complex, nearly 29-minute piano concerto with CPU accompaniment, featuring four solo piano cadenzas which Maguire cheekily calls, “Bill Evans plays Schoenberg.” American experimental music virtuoso, pianist Keith Kirchoff, turns in a spectacular performance here, though some of his pianism gets lost among the dense sonic jungle overgrowth.
Sade auf Kashmir, another concerto – this for cello with CPU – is based on the sonic intertwining of singer Sade’s No Ordinary Love and rock band Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir. Toronto cellist Brian Holt lifts his technically demanding part off the page with accuracy and panache. Will this music be your cup of tea? I don’t know, but now it is mine.
- March 2021 Musicweb International
Maguire works with detailed sonic canvasses, and while there is an organic DJ feel to these pieces there are also plenty of harmonic and thematic relationships that give them structure and direction. A Teenage Dream is based on four songs by Katy Perry, but you don’t need to know the originals to appreciate this piece. Maguire uses CPU or computer to manipulate his material, and the solo piano exists in a space that is inhabited by constantly transforming textures, including groovy beats and spectral vocals. “The structure of the work consists of 4 large murals (quadriptych) each inside a Bergian forward/retrograde ordering, that formally connects/overlaps the movements… [creating] a Groundhog Day of recapitulations not unlike the feeling of a dystopic rondo form.” With “300 tracks of audio, midi instruments, and a mountain of software plugins” you can be sure that there is never a dull moment in this piece’s near 30 minute span.
Sade auf Kashmir has as its concept “the sonic intertwining of Sade’s No Ordinary Love with Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir.” While there is an almost lounge-bar atmosphere to the opening of the ‘pop’ tinged A Teenage Dream, there is a more raw ‘rock’ edge to the first minutes of Sade auf Kashmir, the cello in higher registers adding its own intensity to an already well-stocked sonic palette. This intertwining creates its own theme, the layers of which are then “packed into a traditional theme and variation surface, the theme being followed by nine variations (inside three movements), followed by a return to the original ‘tonic’ theme/tempo.” Sade auf Kashmir has a more abstract feel to its predecessor on this album, but again there is no lack of musical ‘happening’; the sounds never lingering too long in one place, but at the same time not moving so quickly as to bamboozle you or knock you away from a logical narrative line. You can easily find yourself lost in this vast and not too discomforting space, your mind always intrigued to know where it will be taken next.
So yes, this is a bit of an adventure and one you may not appreciate if the idea of moving beyond Bach and Bruckner brings you out in a rash of hives. MC Maguire’s fans will however appreciate this pair of pieces greatly, and I’m sure their commercial availability will gather this remarkable artist more well-deserved attention. If you fancy something different to that oxymoronic genre of ‘the usual avant-garde’ then I would certainly urge you to give it a try.
- Feb 2021 Fanfare Magazine
It seems more than a bit ironic that, as this is being written, the death of legendary music producer Phil Spector has been announced. I would not be surprised if this is the first time that the name of this rock giant has been mentioned in these pages, but Spector himself credits the orchestral music of Wagner as one of his inspirations in creating his trademark Wall of Sound. Listening to this disc, titled Saturation Velocity, I would also not be surprised if MC Maguire is also inspired by Wagner, and perhaps Spector himself. First of all, this highly eclectic music contains a healthy dose of pop music, and the plush, virtuosic use of electronics certainly creates a distinct version of a wall of sound.
As is the case for Wagner and Spector, the success for such an approach relies on the composer’s ability to create lucid texture and a variety of tonal color, and that certainly occurs in this bold and compelling music. A Teenage Dream is an exhilarating electronic amalgam based on the melodies of four songs by pop idol Katy Perry, including the title work as well as (for those few Fanfare readers who may care to know) “Bon Appetit,” “Dark Horse,” and “Firework.” The work begins simply with solo keyboard music, and then Maguire gradually adds layers, eventually arriving at imposing, kaleidoscopic masses of sound. The piles of music are not unrelentingly; the texture and massing are presented with a well-controlled ebb and flow. Importantly, while the music can often present an excitingly wild character, it is always grounded by the easy to enjoy melodies that inspired the composer in the first place. The title to the second work, Sade auf Kashmir, refers to the mash-up of the hit single by Sade, “No Ordinary Love,” and the stoner classic from Led Zeppelin, “Kashmir.” If anything, this work is even more grandiose than A Teenage Dream, even though it is a few minutes shorter. The composer’s description of the technical aspect of the composition offers a good sense of what to expect: “The finished idealization is loaded onto 300 tracks of audio, midi instruments and a mountain of software plugins, shaping the audio density to ever greater climaxes.” As is the case for Keith Kirchoff’s intrepid solo piano in A Teenage Dream, cellist Brian Holt navigates the often treacherous landscape of Sade auf Kashmir with admirable aplomb. I found this adventure to be great, heady fun and even inspirational. Obviously, this kind of electronica is not for everybody, but for that matter, neither is Wagner.
- Jan 2021 Facebook Avant Progressive
- Nov 2020 Albany Records YouTube
This is an amazing piece by a composer who has thrown away all the rules
- Nov 2020 HaroStreet Records YouTube
Fantastic! Beautiful writing!