Essential New Music: Qasim Naqvi’s “Preamble”


Perhaps “abstract modern composition” best describes Preamble, a record perfectly suited to its title. Composed by Dawn Of Midi’s Qasim Naqvi and realized by the Contemporary Music Ensemble of NYC, Preamble is a thrilling, sonorous maze of conservatory gestures that stops just short of cohering into anything continuous or definitive.

Brass swoops, then lows, then scoops. Horns ease upward into untenable shrillness; pianos reverberate contemplatively. An entire orchestra pit appears to shift sleepily between what seems like an improvisatory restlessness and the layered din of a collective warm-up session. Grouped, these carefully carved mini-movements confound one another like opposing weather fronts, swinging through moods without quite resolving into a full-fl edged schizophrenia. But impressionism is hardly a crime, and the disappointment of Preamble is its brevity; half an hour is hardly long enough to truly get lost in the drift on offer here.

—Raymond Cummings