Nicholas Quigley presents a gallery of sounds meant to intrude upon your daily routine.

Nicholas Quigley’s Interventions 1-5 is neither a typical classical album nor pop album. Rather, it occupies a space between the two. A patchwork quilt of sounds, Interventions features acoustic guitar and male voice, solemn string quartets and even an arrangement for solo celesta. (Imagine a cross between a xylophone and piano.)

A young composer and multi-instrumentalist (he’s only 23!), Quigley is still completing his graduate studies at Boston University’s College of Fine Arts. In the liner notes, he writes that his goal is to “provide an experience comparable to moving around in a gallery, from ‘intervention’ to ‘intervention.’” Each movement is a unique painting, a stand-alone suite. This strategy traces back most famously to the Late Romantic Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky, whose Pictures at an Exhibition describes a series of portraits, from “The Gnome” to the “Ballet of Unhatched Chicks.”

While listening, I was reminded of a quotation from mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile from a GRAMMY Pro Interview a few years back:

“Great instances of music… share more core values than they do with other instances of lesser music in the same genre. So the greatest instances of any given genre… rise to the top of that genre and enter into a super-genre of good music. And those musics… are actually fairly similar in a lot of ways and just aesthetically they’re different.”

Interventions is good music. While the movements jump abruptly between styles, the album’s tour of a vast sonic landscape is more exhilarating than upsetting.

The album opens with a string quartet Overture reminiscent to the opening scene of Citizen Kane — a score composed by the legendary Bernard Herrmann of Psycho, Taxi Driver, and North by Northwest fame. Quigley’s opener prominently features the strings’ lower registers. It’s packed with minor harmonies and tight dissonances, evoking that classic sinisterness. The soft, murky timbres call to mind a force of evil that has lost much of its power — not unlike that dying newspaper tycoon. The track is not without sympathy. Toward the end, the strings soar; the harmonies blossom, forcing the listener to empathize with whomever’s suffering the composition conveys.

Then comes the first ‘intervention.’ Performed by a solo piano, the strings from the Overture are nowhere to be found. The piano sounds stately and dignified, but this is a facade. The chords are wide and empty — there’s little coloration in the middle. The harmonies rarely shift. The image created is one of someone stuck. The pianist mostly strikes low keys; they struggle to resonate and reveal an inner weakness. Here, Dickens’ Miss Havisham comes to mind, sitting stoically in her wedding dress, alone in the dust, unable to escape the past.

Later movements have a more contemporary feel. It’s not just the modern instruments and styles — like the marimba featured in the fourth intervention or the folk songs in the second. The bouncing rhythmic lines of the marimba, or the solo celesta in the third invention, recall the playful, but nonetheless haunting music of Steve Reich and Philip Glass. Quigley’s later ‘interventions,’ like the compositions of Reich, don’t tell a story so much as they occupy a moment and explore it. It’s unlike exploring a painting on a canvas, an image frozen in time.

Quigley writes sad music, but it isn’t heavily emotional or maudlin. It’s inquisitive, energetic and weird. After reading a title like Interventions 1-5, one might think of powdered wigs, walking sticks and stilted formalities. The truth is anything but. Quigley takes risks with unusual structures and diverse influences. But, like all good music, it feels whole.

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