You Haven't Been
2017 / Frank Horvat
Review by Kathy Parsons
You Haven’t Been is the follow-up to Canadian composer Frank Horvat’s first solo piano album (2007) titled I’ll Be Good. Where the first album was wildly eclectic, energetic and aggressive, this newer one is very introspective and examines Horvat’s struggles with anxiety and depression. In the artist’s own words: "It was ironic that all these issues came to the surface back during this time (2007), because it was also 10 years ago that I released my first album, I'll Be Good. That album was a compositional puke-fest of everything that had built up within me throughout my life up to that point. To get it out was awesome but also very tiring physically and mentally thus making me more vulnerable to the depression that had always been there. Because of that connection, You Haven't Been is a bit of a contradictory reply (both in title and musically).” It is truly amazing that Horvat was able to express his emotional conflicts and struggles so clearly through his music and the piano and I deeply admire and respect his courage in doing so.
Horvat released four albums of original music in one week this past September, doubling his discography; You Haven’t Been is one of the four. The others are Me to We, a neo-romantic chamber album; The Current Agenda, an electro-chamber album about the social injustices affecting our world; and Love in 6 Stages, avant-ambient pop for voice and piano. Obviously a composer who works in a wide variety of musical genres, Horvat creates works about either social justice issues or the wondrousness of life, love and longing. Because the music on You Haven’t Been is so vivid and deeply personal, it can be a little uncomfortable to listen to, but the most affecting works of art in any medium often take us out of our own comfort zones to experience the inner struggles of others in the most personal way possible.
You Haven’t Been begins with “Crossroads Where I Stand,” a piece that ponders the human tendency to wonder what life would have been like if other choices had been made. “Despair” is very sparse and minimalist, but is one of the darkest pieces of music I’ve heard recently. This is truly what it feels like to be without hope, desperately alone and feeling blackness all around. “An Understated Resolve” brings the bleakness back into the light with compassion and understanding. “Realizations” is one of my favorites. More rhythmic and melodic, it looks at the internal effects of keeping personal revelations bottled up inside. “Crestfallen” has a repeating note that runs through much of the piece with an intense and ominous presence. “Longing” expresses the desire to share internal yearnings as well as frustration with the inability to do so. It begins fairly quietly and builds with the ebb and flow of emotional intensity. “Silent Struggle” is my favorite of the thirteen pieces on the album. Although it seems lighter than most of the tracks, it expresses an ever-present fear of returning pain and inner struggles - darkly beautiful and deeply compelling. It is interesting to learn that even though the beginning and ending pieces start very similarly, they were composed two months apart and were not intended to be a pair. “Diverging Crossroads” expresses the struggle of being several different internal selves and the emotional contradictions and conflicts that ensue.
You Haven’t Been is obviously a very emotional musical journey and is probably not for everyone, but it’s an extremely vivid and enlightening look at what depression and anxiety feel like via the medium of solo piano. It is truly a work of art and is available from Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby.
October 26, 2017