by Erin Marie Hoerchler, special to The Sybaritic Singer
Elizabeth A. Baker refers to herself as “A New Renaissance Artist”, with a nod to the multi-talented legends of centuries past, namely Leonardo da Vinci. The title of her newest album, Quadrivium, pays tribute to another classical phenomenon, the traditional education in geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, and music. In her debut album with Aerocade Music, Baker propels these principles into the 21st century. Quadrivium is the product of Baker’s own expertise in acoustic, electronic, audio, visual, classical, and contemporary artistry.
Quadrivium is generous in subject matter. Baker explores romantic love and “digital Stockholm Syndrome” (Lateral Phrases and Beat Frequencies) as well as meditation (HEADSPACE) and our relationship to the consciousness (Command Voice). In GHB: The Natural Calm & Synthetic Danger, Baker reflects on the fine line between what soothes and destroys us. The title is a reference to GHB, a chemical found in chocolate and wine as well as date rape drugs. Baker sensitively handles sonic and spatial manipulation, using sound to create an immersive, unnerving experience to depict Quadrivium’s darkest moments.
The album is divided into two acts and an intermission. Minimalism and prepared piano techniques take the lead in “Sashay”, “Command Voices”, and “Quarks”. In these first few pieces, Baker exhibits the influence of 20th-century fine art composers such as Claude Debussy, John Cage, and John Adams while avoiding direct comparison. Fans of Baker know that this is “Not A Piano Album”, and that unexpected events lay ahead. In “Identity Definitions,” she brings the themes of this album into focus through the deliberately spoken word.
This quiet moment of clarity functions as a transition into Act Two. Baker ushers the listener through seven pieces that could have functioned as an electronic music album on their own (if created by a less versatile artist). Besides the variety of sonic mediums present in Quadrivium, Baker, a visual artist/photographer, has created a companion zine with original artwork that listeners can buy with the limited edition CD.
I do not know if the embrace of multimedia technology is an inevitable consequence of artists living digitally saturated lives. Many have chosen to create their work within traditional mediums. In Quadrivium, Elizabeth A. Baker does more than show the different ways that historical and modern influences can co-exist, she does so with purpose. She illuminates the ways that the changing digital world is changing us. She embraces the future cautiously while avoiding nostalgia for the past. She warns of the consequences of our rapidly changing world while leading us into the future anyway. She acknowledges the dangers that lie ahead but equips us with her own quadrivium of lessons in a variety of subjects & mediums. As she says in Quadrivium, “Everything in life is changing. The cold veneer from the metallic and technology-driven world where disasters alongside tragedy become the norm has but one constant: our love.”
Erin Marie Hoerchler is an emerging composer and songwriter whose music is melodic, dramatic, and theatrical. Erin’s work has been performed at the Sheldon Concert Hall, Macklanburg Playhouse, and the St. Louis Zoo. She has had the pleasure of sharing her “infectious enthusiasm for her work” (Amy Wilder, Columbia Tribune) with St. Louis Symphony musicians as well as Vox Nova, the Missouri Contemporary Ballet, and soloists and ensembles at the University of Missouri. Erin has received 1st Prize in the 2015 Webster University Young Composers’ Competition, the Eric T. Schabacker Recording and Music Business Scholarship, and was named a finalist for the 2015 Sinquefield Prize.