American mezzo Sasha Cooke’s reaction to the endless cancellations and disappointments of 2020 was to get seventeen pairs of composers and writers to each create a song that encapsulated 2020 for them. She recorded the results with pianist Kirill Kuzmin to create the album how do I find you? As we come to the end of 2021 I find myself reflecting on how we have coped so far and what’s to come. Other people’s experience expressed in music perhaps helps.
It’s an interesting album. It’s not all about COVID. There’s BLM, the California fires, a school shooting and culture wars too. The COVID related material ranges from nostalgia, to reflection, to frustration, to defiance. The style of writing runs from high poetic to conversational, even of the on-line chat variety. If some of the music is a little generic American art song for my taste there’s also plenty that’s original and inventive.
Perhaps unsurprisingly I found myself drawn most strongly to artists I had a prior connection with, not least my constant COVID companions Missy Mazzoli and Royce Vavrek. Their Self Portrait with Dishevelled Hair, inspired by the Rembrandt, is a reflection on the idea of a self portrait as a captured image of one’s creative legacy. Like much of their output it’s disturbing. Colleen Murphy collaborates with Rene Orth on a funny piece about a harassed working at home mother. Andrew Marshall and Todd Bass deal with the same idea rather differently In A Bad Case of the Kids. Liza Balkan shapes composer Lembit Beecher’s impressions of the devastation caused by the fires in California into a meditation on the nature of memory. That’s just a sample. All seventeen tracks on the record have something to offer.
Cooke has a really nice mezzo voice and is something of a specialist in contemporary American music. Kuzmin, who works with Houston Grand Opera, is a most accomplished collaborator. The recording, made at Chapelwood United Methodist Church, Houston, TX, is clean and well balanced. The release date is January 28th 2022 and it will be available as a standard CD, CD quality download (what I reviewed) and a hi-def download version plus the usual streaming options. Worth a listen.