“Nicolas’ score is captivatingly beautiful. It is imbued with an organic sense of unfurling phrase structure and melodious counterpoint, untethered by the pretension of hyper-complexity.”
Commissioned by the ABC’s ‘Fresh Start Program’, The Shift is a work for solo guitar by Sydney-based composer Natalie Nicolas. This recording features guitarist Matt Withers and was published as a digital-only release in February 2021 by the ABC as a single-work offering.
Structured in three movements (The Rain Will Go Away, Sunbeam, Beyond the Mist), the work depicts an inner journey from troubled times towards a more hopeful future. Aligning with the tensions of the past two years of pandemic-related life, The Shift draws upon the composer’s own experience of observing a loved-one’s struggle through this difficult juncture in modern history. The composer says of the work:
Music has the incredible power to make people feel, and my ultimate goal as a composer will always be to create honest, emotionally evocative music to help people to feel in, a world full of pragmatism.
It is rare to have a listening experience of a new composition where both the performance and the work itself take the listener on a journey both cerebrally and emotionally. Natalie Nicolas’ The Shift succeeds in doing just so.
Nicolas’ score is captivatingly beautiful. It is imbued with an organic sense of unfurling phrase structure and melodious counterpoint, untethered by the pretension of hyper-complexity which so often riddles new musical works. This music gives a sense of being what it needs to be. Nicolas doesn’t shy away from leaning into familiar compositional devices to imbue her score with an honest, almost spiritual discourse.
Withers gives a beautifully inflected performance of this work, with a deep sense of consideration to expression at every turn. Particularly captivating is his execution of the unfurling musical lines in the middle movement, Sunbeam. The whole performance (of 10 minutes duration approximately) draws the listeners attention to subtle colourations of sound and beautifully sculpted musical gestures, Withers guiding us through the brief journey of The Shift as wonderfully crafted by Natalie Nicolas.
I strongly recommend this to curious listeners of all ages. Find ten minutes to let Natalie Nicolas and Matt Withers take you on a captivating musical journey. It will brighten and enrich your day.