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Christen Lien’s Vol I: Battle Cry Gives The Viola Its Voice Back

Topics: Music | 5 CommentsBy admin | March 14, 2010

The viola is often the butt of jokes like “What’s the difference between a seamstress and a violist? The seamstress tucks up the frills”, but Christen Lien gives the viola its voice back on her brilliant release Vol I: Battle Cry

I’ve always felt a little bit of sympathy for the viola. The violin, in spite of its rather thin voice and high screech potential, always gets the limelight, while the richer, sonorous voice of the viola gets relegated to harmonies and pizzicatos. Well, I can feel a little less sympathy after listening to Christen Lien’s new CD Vol. I: Battle Cry. Lien definitely gives the instrument its voice back, and lets it say all the things it has the beauty and the power to say when it’s in the right hands. If you like the loop-based cello work of Zoe Keating, there’s a good chance you’d enjoy Lien’s work. Lien uses a bit of looping to help create the voices, rhythms, and textures on Battle Cry. But the fact that both Keating and Lien create atmospheric and compelling music by using looping on their bowed instruments is where the comparison ends. While I adore Keating’s soaring textural broods, Lien branches out a bit more. The tunes on Battle Cry range from the playful to the reflective, and from the almost searingly rhythmic to pastoral realms that literally brought tears to my eyes on repeated listens. There are brief previews of the songs below, and full length previews on her site . It’s available on Amazon as single songs, an album download, or eco-friendly on-demand CD, as well as from the other sources listed on Lien’s site, including CDBaby and iTunes. Learn more about how Lien was inspired by Martin Luther King – among other things – in this SCPR piece. The article includes this clip in which she walks you through the inpirations for the individual tunes. Lien has a lot of interesting things to say, but I’m quite content with what she says with the viola.

Read Comments

  1. Posted by Giri on 03.14.10 5:48 pm

    Nice! Thanks for featuring her, she’s all kinds of awesome.


  2. Posted by Jerry on 03.15.10 2:29 pm

    The music that flows through Lien is sometimes haunting and always beautiful. It connects us with the full spectrum of human emotion and experience, the dark as well as light, the hallowed as well as the haunting.
    Great review. I love her music!

  3. Posted by Isaac Cotec on 03.16.10 11:26 pm

    Christen Lien’s music is breath taking. Her music has such a dynamic range and powerful delivery. I highly suggest you support her work by buying her album as well as gain an unforgettable experience.

  4. Posted by Thomas Dolby’s Oceanea & Eno’s Seven Sessions On A Milk Sea | dissociatedpress.com on 11.29.10 9:38 pm

    [...] being anxious to pick up Eno’s release, forgot all about it until another artist I admire (Christen Lien) mentioned it on Facebook and with a facepalm and a “DOH!” I finally bought it. Both [...]

  5. Posted by Christen Lien at Sitar Arts Center in DC on Friday 12/10/2010 « on 12.03.10 5:55 am

    [...] CD: Vol. I: Battle Cry, Christen makes us forget all about the bride. Ian Gray said it best in his review: I’ve always felt a little bit of sympathy for the viola. The violin, in spite of its rather thin [...]