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Culture Watch: Roger Reynolds' 'Sanctuary'

September 28, 2011 | 10:00 am

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Roger Reynolds: Sanctuary
(Mode DVD)

An epic work of intoxicating beauty for four percussionists and electronics, “Sanctuary” is meant for a great space. It had its premiere in the atrium of the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., in 2007. The next year, it was performed, while the sun set over the Pacific, outdoors at the Salk Institute in La Jolla. This DVD documents the premiere, offers a documentary on the Salk performance and another nuts-and-bolts documentary on the composer, who has been at UCSD for more than 40 years.

Reynolds Sanctuary More important, the two-DVD set also offers a studio recording in stunning surround sound by red fish, blue fish, Steven Schick’s USCD percussion ensemble that inspired the score, with fancy video imaging showing the theatrical aspects of the performance. The visuals, at least for home consumption, are overkill. What matters is the subtle, exquisitely textured, often surprisingly muted and compulsively listenable music. The score begins with quiet tapping that might suggest nerve cells firing. Then, over the span of an hour and a quarter, you might sense the brain of a lyric poet coming to sizzling life.

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-- Mark Swed

Photo: Percussionist Steven Schick  in the world premiere of "Sanctuary" at the National Gallery. Credit: Alex Matthews/Mode

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