Lincoln based composer and pianist Philip D. Zach’s debut album Gradient has been released on December 9, 2017. Strongly influenced by the American minimalists and neo-classical music, Zach delivers a collection of seven piano pieces that reflect his thoughts and feelings on themes such as relationships, society, life and spirituality. Gradient is full of intriguing and fascinating music.
The title track is based on the morphing of musical ideas, gradually evolving in their melodic and rhythmic material—through the concept of augmentation and diminution as well as repetition, as popularised by Philip Glass—until the piece reaches its climax, illustrating the passing of day and night, and the inevitable return to light—and to some extent the evolution of life.
Pyramid Lung, a very personal piece for Zach, is based on a progression of layers slowly growing from minor tonalities to major, illustrating the life recovery process of healing. A reflective piece carrying a wonderful melody, Pyramid Lung expresses how experience is taken from growth and perspective.
The recurring theme of evolution and journey is also present in the melancholic Birth and Death of a Dream. Here Zach plays around the relationship between dissonance and consonance, and the satisfaction that one feels when reaching the latter. As the piece progresses, musical complexity slowly arises and fades away.
Inspired by the way American society has evolved in the last few decades and the recent events that have taken place in France, Unwanted Tears is Zach’s intuitive response and attempt at demonstrating the effects arts can have. In a constant flow of notes, reminiscent of the works of Lubomyr Melnyk, Unwanted Tears explores the concept of polyphonic rhythmic augmentation until the piece reaches its peak, retaining its melody only.
In Better Now, Zach continues his exploration of the concept of perpetual rhythm. Similarly to the rest of the pieces in Gradient, Better Now’s melody is omnipresent and incorporated in the rain-like quality of the composition.
Liquid Mirror is a very interesting piece; being the result of a collaboration, Zach has transformed an improvised piece into a fully written piano composition. The main theme is the central focus of this piece, gradually evolving in tension and dynamics, bearing a sense of triumph and majesty.
The final piece of Gradient, combines two musical ideas layered on top of each other. A slightly more airy and serene piece, Reverse the River closes the album with a feeling of completion and achievement.
Gradient is a forty-one-minutes fascinating journey inside the musical world of Philip D. Zach. A delightful surprise at how Zach manages to combine musical interest, his own cultural heritage as well as emotion and lyricism into beautifully performed pieces. I strongly suggest Gradient to be listened carefully, as behind its apparent simplicity lies wonderful music.