The Book of Arius – Act I is a vast narrative collection of instrumental music written for and performed by a string quartet. The project is separated into four movements, each with their own sense of weight and worth, and each linking back to a difficult or traumatic experience – making this a uniquely personal and spellbinding experience.
White Sulphur Springs begins the experience, inviting and effectively sweeping its audience along on a seven minute-plus journey through musical expression and ideas. The soundscape is beautifully emotive from the offset, the mood is peaceful yet lightly coloured with detail and passion. After around the three minute mark, things take a turn for the much more intense and unsettling. Reality hits with impact. The thoughtfulness that has crafted all of this is immense, but what really seeks to mesmerize is the unity and communication between each part. The musicians involved will either contrast or collaborate in terms of the energy, the quickness of the notes, the notes themselves – the changing moods are reflected by everything involved, so the detail appears in a way as being multiple characters or the various threads that make up the story. T.C. Crosser has put a huge part of himself into this project, and it shows.
River City is movement two, shorter and lighter from the start. There’s a slight familiarity to the melody at first, the single instrument draws an intimate, whispered connection that begs for you to hold it close. As the layers form around it, the highs and the lows, a certain warmth appears, intertwined with snippets of darkness, which, for me, quite powerfully underlines the concept of the city, and indeed that of a river running through it – perhaps an intense metaphorical reference. This particular piece has a strong sense of escapism about it that lets your mind wander off almost entirely as the sound fills the room around you.
Movement three is Goose Creek, a haunting piece though perhaps the very idea of a ‘creek’ comes with somewhat eerie connotations these days. The music is incredibly unique here, the roles played by everyone appear like eyes in the darkness – right there beside you but not quite close enough to understand. Things grow darker and more manic as the piece progresses, your walk through the creek turns into a run, your imagination goes wild, before everything finally settles once again. T.C. Crosser has a way with creativity that is powerful and it has been permitted the true freedom to reign throughout this EP thanks to superb musicianship from all involved.
The final few moments are brought in by Hell’s Kitchen. There’s a slight familiarity to the music by this point, not simply in that you acclimatize to the presence of the quartet, but also in the way the music is presented. The shortness of certain notes in contrast with the longer reach of others, the darkness and the light pulling from opposite directions – it all acts as a definite thread throughout The Book of Arius – Act 1.
This project is undeniably interesting, and the more you focus your attention on the passing moments, the more it provokes a high level of appreciation – it’s impressive, to say the very least. On the other hand, rather than zoom in on every little detail, letting these stories surround you as intended is where the real magic begins. Your own mind drives much of the experience, your reaction to the music is a huge part of how it will affect you, and T.C. Crosser and the string quartet have a done a superb job in laying that out for you in an effective, fully immersive way. This is worth a listen for anyone interested in the power of music, of ambient music in general, and particularly those who are naturally drawn to classical music but are seeking out something fresh and unusual.