Music = 5 Stars, Image Quality = 1 Star
Steward Willons | Illinois | 10/21/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is a frustrating DVD. I love Steven Schick, Roger Reynolds, contemporary music, and the work itself. The DVD itself is severely disappointing.
First the good news. Watereshed IV is a wonderful addition to the ever expanding body of multi percussion literature. As usual, Steven Schick turns in a masterful performance, clearly demonstrating why he is *the* final word in contemporary (non-keyboard) solo percussion. His performance of Watershed is amazing to watch. One interesting note: he appears to be following the score during the performance. This is highly unusual for him - I'm not sure what's up with that. If he can memorize a 60+ minute work like John Luther Adams's Mathematics of Resonant Bodies, I'm not sure why he's using the score for this performance. Regardless, I can find no fault with the performance whatsoever.
I'm not as familiar with Roger Reynolds's work having only heard a handful for his pieces. Watershed is interesting to watch, but you definitely get more out of it having the score to follow along. The scope of the 25 minute work is so large that it's difficult to keep the ideas in mind. From looking at the score, I can see thematic material, developments, and variations, but from simply listening, it's not nearly as clear. If you don't have access to the score, this is will require a number of listenings before things come into focus. The good news is that it's worth your time.
There are some interesting interviews with Reynolds, Schick and the sound engineer offering some very interesting insights not just to Watershed, but to sound spatialization and music in general. The spatialization definitely adds a lot to the work. If you don't have a 5.1 system, headphones are the next best thing. The DVD includes a 5.1 and stereo mix, both of which sound good.
Now the bad news. The image quality is abysmal. You might think I'm exaggerating when I compare the picture to what you'd expect from Real player or Windows Media. I promise you - it looks that bad. The image is blocky, pixilated, dark, and flat. This is totally inexcusable when there are some many great looking DVDs out there. Additionally, there is an annoying "W" in the lower right hand corner for the duration of the work. W for Watershed??? I have no idea why it's there. Just a pointless distraction.
While I can recommend the music, I can't recommend this DVD at all. I'd be very suspicious of any Mode Records DVDs. I do know that this was their first and (if what their website claims is true) the first "art music" DVD ever produced. Maybe they have figured out how to make a decent product in the six years since this came out.
Of course, watching Steven Schick is always a treat. I've given this DVD 3 stars as an average of the music and the production quality. Just make sure you know what you're getting before you buy this."