Zach Cooper weaves recordings with the Vermont Contemporary Music Ensemble, high school demos, solo compositions and eraserhead-less tape experiments into the shining fabric of The Sentence. A debut album brimming with many talents and tales, The Sentence is atemporal, a divining of Cooper’s personal history to map his musical travels through formative years in New York state, his studies and collaborations within the University of Vermont’s music theory and composition department, and a move to the hills of Black Mountain, North Carolina. Devoted to a lifestyle of meditation and spiritual embrace, Cooper reflects inner peace to a universal call for calm. “This is for us to incite stillness in our hearts and minds,” each word a song, each title a movement in the greater dance of harmony and balance. Cooper’s sentence is not about meditation, but the result of it.
The album’s message does not predict its sound. Though moments of The Sentence are quiet (“To”) and hopeful (“Is”); others are whimsical (”Us”) and moody (“Minds”). “Incite” crashes cymbals upon Moog waves, samples of Saturday cartoons and middle school conversations. “Stillness” threads multiple movements within a three minute expanse: abrasive samples, billowing horns (care of Rev. Kiah Abendroth on trumpet), a guitar / synth lullaby and North Carolina finger-picking. The most elaborate of The Sentence, “Us”, brushes ecstatic orchestral movements atop a canvas of chamber recordings and present-day electronic freak-outs. The song exemplifies Cooper’s breadth, toolkit and imaginative execution as a composer. “Us” features performances from Steve Klimowski (clarinet) and Bonnie Thurber-Klimowski (cello), both of the Vermont Contemporary Music Ensemble, and was recorded in a chapel in Montpelier, VT. Zach Cooper’s The Sentence is an elegant testament to a life of sound, a history of collaboration and solo experimentation, and a shedding of metaphysical skin.