What recordings do you buy and why? What recordings have you listened to recently? Derek Bermel, Composer



Derek Bermel
Photo courtesy Derek Bermel

Last month I found some CD gems, among them Pittsburgh band Don Caballero‘s new album What Burns Never Returns (Touch and Go TG185CD) a minimalist rock album which takes King Crimson’s early 80′s stuff to the next level; the drummer Damon Che weaves some incredible polyrhythmic lines. Listening to the album reminded me of the whole band sleeping on my floor a few years ago during their midwest tour. I bought the young hip-hop group Blackstar‘s first album (Rawkus RWK 1158-2) and especially enjoyed one stellar track, “Thieves in the Night” based on a quote from Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye; It’s worth buying the CD just for this lyric. I bought Bun-Ching Lam‘s The Child God opera on Tzadik (TZ 7031), and I’ve already listened to the piece five or six times. She has an uncanny sense of dramatic action in music; her earlier album on CRI also makes good listening. I found Morton Feldman‘s Coptic Light recorded by Michael Morgan and the Deutsched Symphonie-Orchester Berlin (CPO 999 189-2). I studied this score in detail several years ago, but hadn’t heard a recording until last year when I heard Michael Tilson Thomas’ recent version with the New World Symphony; I’m still not sure which one I like better, but I think that every American composer writing for orchestra should at least know the score.

I also picked up a copy of Bill EvansEloquence (Fantasy OJCCD-814-2) in a used record shop. I’ve been trying to find this one for years ever since I heard it on LP when I was 12; I love the first track “Gone With the Wind”. While I was in Prague I bought the latest album by the Czech violin / vocals / percussion duo of Iva Bittova & Pavel Fajt (Panton 81 0795-2). Pretty wacky stuff, very personal and theatrical. For some reason I bought a second copy of Claude Vivier‘s opera Kopernikus, which I had gotten in Toronto a few years ago at the Canadian Music Centre (Les Disques SRC, MVCD 1047). I can’t even count the number of times I’ve listened to this disc, as well as the newer disc of Vivier’s orchestral music, featuring the Schoenberg and Asko Ensembles conducted by Reinbert de Leeuw and soprano Susan Narucki (Philips 454-231-2). I’ve been enjoying a CD of Gerald Barry‘s orchestral works that I obtained from the Irish Music Centre in Dublin (Marco Polo 8.225006). Worth the work it takes to get it!

I must say that most of the best music comes to my house by mail, sent by friends and fellow composers. Among the CDs which I dug were Jonathan Hart Makwaia‘s unbelievable disc (WOW! Get it!), Susan Botti‘s new release on CRI, Steve Burke‘s juicy disc “Clockwise”, Alejandro Iglesias Rossi‘s CD of his newest electronic works, and Laura Caviani‘s jazz compositions on As One on the Innova label. Most of these are available from smaller labels or directly from the composers themselves.