Dosia McKay is no stranger to success – her compositions have been premiered at universities and galleries across the United States, and has also been heard on National Public Radio. Native to Poland, she moved to the United States in 1991 and has built a career focusing on aural oddities and surprising sounds. McKay spends her time in North Carolina, weaving jazzy chords, floating soundscapes, and Polish folk music into otherwise “classical” music.
Glossolalia means to speak in tongues, a common phenomenon in born-again churches of the American South. McKay explains in the disc jacket that this album was written to explore the intricacies and fluidity of language, in a way that’s understood no matter you native tongue. From even the first glance, Glossolalia draws its audience into McKay’s vision.
The production value of Glossolalia is astounding – rarely is there an album of new music so expertly performed and packaged. The Neoquartet, comprised of Polish musicians Karolina Piatkowska-Nowicka on first violin, Pawel Kapica on second violin, Michal Markiewicz on viola, and Krzysztof Pawlowski on cello, is a deliciously refreshing ensemble, and their passion for new music crashes through the album. They shine and sparkle in every track, their precision and painstakingly emotive playing tears out your soul with every second that ticks by.
“Grit and Glitz” features second violin, viola, and cello, and delivers a stunning performance with harmonic depth and decisive dynamics. This trio has a complexity derived from McKay’s fusion of musical styles that can inject any music collection with life and virility, while remaining accessible to those less familiar with the new music community. Pawel Nowicki, playing vibraphone on “First in Flight,” reminds us why vibraphones exist in the first place: to deliver ethereal and agile melodies with ease and sophistication.
McKay composed music which eloquently and expertly describes the human condition with Three Monologues, a set of movements which explore deliciously contrasting emotions in the vein of an actor at a demanding audition. “Surge” expresses elemental passive-aggression with a post-tonal mindset, while “Cantabile” features sighing, shy melodies that blossom into a full palette of artistic harmonies, and “Expletivo” functions graciously as the work’s finale, crunching and crackling with impolite dissonances and rude rhythmic exchanges, with what McKay describes as “vulgar,” writing in the disc jacket, “It should be bleeped out and cleaned up.” Three Monologues stands tall on its own, but still isn’t out of place on this album full of strong, fresh compositions.
The slips and slides in the title track, “Glossolalia,” depict the mysterious and often misunderstood practice of praying in tongues. For anyone who has ever witnessed this act, you will see that McKay captured the essence of ecstasy and trance in the track, solidifying an album that politely refuses to be pigeonholed. The slow, excruciating build up of sound rends even the stoniest heart and encapsulates the theme of humanity and emotion.
This album has something for everyone, with its post-tonalism, long, luxurious melodies, jazzy harmonies, and energetic, emotive performances. Glossolalia is a work of art, deconstructing the mysteries of language with the same meticulous attention and fervor as an anthropologist.