Though known for his unusual and extended techniques- circular breathing, polyphonic playing on a single woodwind instrument-Ned Rothenberg's work on Ghost Stories is not full of pyrotechnical effects. All of the compositions on the CD are his, and are mainly written out, though there is some improvisation on them. He uses through composing style and metric modulation. "Arbor Vitae" features duo playing by Rothenberg on clarinet and Riley Lee on shakuhachi, a Japanese bamboo flute. Here he is concerned with emphasizing the woody timbres produced by the two instruments, and mixing tonal and microtonal material. On "Ghost Stories," the title track, Rothenberg does not appear; it's by the trio of cellist Erik Friedlander, percussionist Satoshi Takeishi and pipa (a Chinese plucked-string instrument) player Min Xiao-Fen. Rothenberg, on alto sax, and Takeishi are on "Duet for Alto Saxophone and Percussion." The CD concludes with "Kagami," featuring Rothenberg unaccompanied on shakuhachi.
The music on this disc is mainly contemplative in mood. Polyphony is featured and well as textural and timbral variation. The group interplay is tasteful and sensitive. Considering that this is mostly written music, the performances are commendably relaxed, sounding as they were improvised. Through-composition is an area that should be explored a great deal more than it has been. The combinations of musical elements that can be employed in through-composed pieces are virtually endless. Rothenberg deserves praise for his work in this area and hopefully will expand them.