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Album Review: Elements
Matthew Schoening
Cover image of the album Elements by Matthew Schoening
Matthew Schoening
2010 / Matthew Schoening
46 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Elements is an amazing 45-minute live solo performance by electric cellist Matthew Schoening. I love acoustic cello, but had to wonder how a solo performance of that length could possibly be interesting from start to finish. Wow! Was I ever in for a surprise! This recording sounds like a full ensemble, a technique Schoening accomplishes by live looping and layering. There are no pre-recorded tracks - everything is captured in the moment by using foot pedals that record segments of what Schoening is playing and then play them back as he continues to perform. Bass and percussion sounds are part of what you hear, and it all comes from Schoening’s cello! The bowed parts of the music sound like an acoustic cello, but the rest needs to be heard to be believed! (There are some great videos on YouTube that give an idea of how he does this.)

The music itself is an original suite of five pieces - Water, Air, Fire, Earth, and Spirit - that were composed to remind us of how connected we are to the basic fundamentals of life itself. There are no breaks between the tracks, and the only edits made to the recording were to designate the individual tracks rather than making the recording essentially all one piece. However, Schoening recommends listening to the album from start to finish, as it was performed.

Matthew Schoening has two rules for himself:
1)All of the music he composes has to be able to be performed live by him, with no pre-recorded tracks.
2)All of the sounds have to come from his electric cello.

In a way, this seems very limiting, but seeing and hearing the wide array of sounds and rhythms that are possible on the electric cello, it could take a full lifetime to explore the possibilities - a true artistic adventure and a truly original artist! Both seem to be in very short supply in our contemporary world, so it’s exciting and inspiring to see someone so focused on his vision at all costs.

In thinking of words to describe the style of Schoening’s music, the first one that comes to mind is “unique.” There are elements of classical music, jazz, progressive rock, ambient, and new age, but Elements really doesn’t fit into any of these categories (a good thing!). I guess that means you’ll have to hear it for yourself! There are samples on Schoening’s site as well as the videos on YouTube, so take a little time to get to know this extraordinary musician! The album is available from Schoening’s site as well as Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Check it out for a very unusual musical experience!
February 22, 2011
This review has been tagged as:
Other Solo Instruments
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