Albany TIMES UNION Section: Preview, Page: PV31
Date: Thursday, October 29, 2009

Three new DVDs recently arrived from the McLean Mix -- the iconoclastic composer duo/husband- and-wife team of Barton and Priscilla McLean of Petersburg. Already well represented on CDs, the pair have now documented their major compositions from the last 10 or so years. All the pieces involve a mix of acoustic and electronic elements, and most include video by Priscilla McLean. Working out of their home-based studios, the McLeans work individually and together to produce works that are at once highly sophisticated in the use of electronic tools, but also gritty and earthy.

Leading the disc titled "Collaborations 2000-2008" is "MILLing in the ENNIUM," a dense 21-minute collage of 2,000 years of music, from Gregorian chant and Hildegard of Bingen through Mozart and Beethoven and on to Ives and Stravinsky, along with samplings of music by plenty of the McLean's contemporary colleagues as well. The video is just as profligate, with footage of ballet dancers, choirboy. symphony conductors and ticking clocks. The piece premiered as part of an installation at MassMoCA in North Adams, Mass., in 2000. The two other pieces on the disc aren't quiet so broad in their reach, but similar elements appear, including primal rhythms and cross fades in the music and video made up of surreal montages with lots of flames in the foreground.

Another disc, "Symphony of the Seasons," presents Priscilla's take on the cycles of the Earth, again in both audio and video. Though focused on nature, there's nothing here as pristine or detached as what's found on the Discovery Channel. Extreme close-ups of bursting flowers and decaying leaves are given a slightly malevolent soundtrack that suggests the grand cosmic forces at work on the microscopic level. But there's also a sense of play in some of McLean's video techniques. For example, during footage of her playing a percussion instrument in a natural setting, the screen becomes a swirl and the trees seem to swallow her up.

The third disc, "McLean Mix Live!" gives a sense of how the couple appears in concert, sometimes hamming it up in party hats but more often intensely focused on their battery of electronic gear. For decades now, the McLeans have been making the bulk of their living by touring, primarily appearing at universities across the country. But this spring will be their final grand swing. Although they've never followed the norms of the music world -- or society in general, for that matter -- it's safe to say that they have reached the traditional age of retirement. But don't count on the McLeans to stop creating in various realms. In addition to musical composition, Barton contributes to a number of scholarly journals and writes occasional concert reviews for The Advocate, Williamstown's weekly newspaper. And Priscilla recently contributed her first review to the Times Union. For ordering any of these discs, contact the McLeans at:  mclmix at