Never mind the ominous cover, of an emaciated, crucified man, or the dark implication of the title "Pagan Mass," composer Pierre Schroeder's eight- movement composition is a satisfying adventure in genre-crossing.
Available on CD on the PCS label, "Pagan Mass" gives a good indication of Schroeder's musical voice, contemporary without being either bland or esoteric.
The French-born Schroeder studied at L'Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris and at Berklee school in Boston, with the eye toward film scoring. He moved to Los Angeles, and then to Ojai, in the late '80s.
Despite the connection of Schroeder's work to the structure and meditative qualities of the traditional Catholic Mass, it is clearly a departure from convention.
A composer who happily works with both electronics and live musicians, Schroeder steers away from the traditional religious aspect of a Mass, describing his work as "a celebration of life forces for the reincarnation of wisdom beyond dogma and doctrine."
At times, the work aspires to the plaintive calm of renowned Estonian composer Arvo Part. Suddenly, it turns toward modes of jazz and world music writing, with restlessly percolating rhythms and improvisational-sounding phrases. If it's not one thing, it's another with this piece, a probing quality at the heart of the music.