Mike Kuehn

Mikel Kuehn takes listeners on walk through his musical landscape on new CD

  By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Mikel Kuehn likes to take hikes. Oak Openings is a favorite location. He favors the wilder, natural environment to a more manicured landscape – “the messiness of nature… the entanglement of vines.” “To me, it’s really beautiful,” the composer said. That carries through in his compositions. They have a deceptive tangle of sounds, lines that stretch into the musical undergrowth reaching up, seeking light. As in nature, what may seem a disorder of trees, vines, leaves and their shadows, has an underlying order. In his compositions, Kuehn said, he wants listeners to go on a walk with him and appreciate the unruly beauty of nature. Kuehn, now on the cusp of turning 50, has just released his first CD devoted to his compositions. “Object Shadow” was released by New Focus Recordings in October. The recording features seven compositions, most written between 2004 and 2014. The outlier is the composition that closes the recording, “Between the Lynes,” which dates to 1994. This is the earliest piece in which he explores the textures and techniques evident in the later work. “It’s one of the first I’m happy with,” he said. “The pieces are all virtuosic,” Kuehn, who has taught at Bowling Green State University since 1998, said.  The performers are “all perfect.” The CD opening and closes with performances by Ensemble Dal Niente, a Chicago-based new music group. The opening “Undercurrents” features the entire 14-piece ensemble. The title piece, albeit in French not English, “Objet/Ombre,” features a 12-saxophone ensemble from BGSU with electronics that shadow their sounds. Another leading new music group Flexible Music appears on “Color Fields.” Three solo pieces for cello and electronics, guitar and marimba round out the program. Kuehn said he was able to record the CD thanks to a Guggenheim Foundation grant and an award from the Ohio Arts Council. Without that money, he said, “I never would have been able to do it.” Recording a piece for as many musicians as “Undercurrents” is especially costly, he said. “Undercurrents” was recorded by Dan Nichols in Chicago using 40 microphones. That provided a striking level of detail. When Kuehn traveled to Mount Vernon, just outside New York City, to work with engineer Ryan Streber, he had an array of sonic options. He and Streber, himself a…