Joby Talbot, Tide Harmonic

John Schaefer

By John Schaefer

on 08.05.11 in Reviews

Tide Harmonic

Joby Talbot

English composer Joby Talbot has had a varied career that includes rock music (he was half of The Divine Comedy), production (he helmed singer Ute Lemper’s extraordinary art-rock album Punishing Kiss), and music for television, film and theater. Recently he has had a particularly productive relationship with the dance world: The Royal Ballet’s first new, full-length music score in 20 years was Talbot’s acclaimed music for 2011′s Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland. This piece, Tide Harmonic, is Talbot’s score for a dance work about water. It is a mercurial, colorful composition, ringing and chiming with percussion, harp, and keyboards in “Dew Point,” but also pounding relentlessly in “Storm Surge.” “Hadal Zone,” referring to the deepest, coldest parts of the ocean, has a still, sparse texture that becomes increasingly turbulent, until it resolves into a passage that combines the rhythmic figures of minimalism with an almost Romantic sweep.

A mercurial, colorful composition

The work’s centerpiece (musically, not literally) is probably “Algal Bloom,” which spends its first half hovering in a state of suspended animation, with only wisps of instrumental color shooting through, before gradually building to a rhythmic orchestral fantasy.

The finale, “Confluence,” reminds us that while Talbot is a wholly contemporary composer, he’s also an English one; the centuries-old British love affair with landscape comes through in this almost pastoral soundscape. “Tide Harmonic” has an almost cinematic quality to it (Talbot did the score to the film version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), and though the original dance piece was less about mankind’s relationship to water than it was about water itself, you do get a strong sense of a narrative arc in this thoroughly engaging score.