Shadows and silhouettes become tangible outlines buried deep in the earth on Wilfrido Terrazas’ beguiling My Shadow Leads This Way. The Mexican flutist and composer uses the words of poet Ricardo Cázares to investigate the idea of meaning itself, the aural expositions becoming explorations of how memory can render a narrative that becomes a significance of its own. My Shadow Leads This Way combines heady reflections with intricate, whimsical music that is not just adventurous but innately listenable.
Small cymbals bounce off one another, sparking intricate resonances that shift perspective and bring listeners into a new world on the opener, “Shadow Prelude.” The title track is the first appearance of Cázares’ poetry, Terrazas intertwining Spanish and English in a way that creates unexpected connections. Beneath his calming voice, gamelan-esque percussion rides a wave of flute exercises, making this feel like a dream. “Only in music can time!” Terrazas bellows these words, imbuing them with further power. His intonation, underlit by frenetic sonic tapestries, imparts meaning, and as the phrase continues, “take up a real place, in space,” the weight holds. If all matter has mass, sound may be weightless, but its gravity is unmeasurable.
Elsewhere, Terrazas runs patterns through the air with his elucidated flute vignettes, rife with texture and emotion but seemingly searching for a different place to be. His technique is at the highest level, which allows him to play impossible motifs with an air of lightness. “Tercera Glosa” floats through the ancient sky as though it has existed for all time, waiting to be plucked into consciousness. These passages are intimate and quiet but feel like a ton of bricks in the spaces that open up in their wake. Sonorous metallic tones return to give pause on “Shadow Interlude,” readying us for the illumination of “No One Talks to You This Way.”
As the album description says, “Words here are raw musical materials,” and on “No One Talks to You This Way,” each phrase is a two-sided universe. Terrazas paints expressive intonations and gestures in Spanish and English as his words, and the effervescent physicality of each flute progression is a reverent exclamation. “The way, I suppose, is to keep going,” he whispers matter-of-factly. “As long as your line runs true.” Words as sonic building blocks slathered with significance. “I guess the way is to measure it however you can.”
My Shadow Leads This Way is a forward crawl through the depths and brambles of our inner lives and monologues where the only sound are the words in our minds. There is a neverending search in these sounds and spoken word elements. Terrazas blurs the line between music and words, changing perceptions. My Shadow Leads This Way leaves me reconsidering if distinctions between the two matter and how that shapes our own understanding. As the ten-minute closer, “Shadow Postlude (Para M.L.)” fills the hollows with a quiet flute serenade, a space is left behind to fill with new, eloquent conclusions. My Shadow Leads This Way is a tremendous achievement.