With the holidays upon us, many of us musical types have been doing some last-minute shopping, racking our brains to think of any gift that is sufficiently cooler than a treble clef paperweight. So it seems like a good time to bring up IV-V-I, a new harmony-based card game created and designed by composer and educator Rafael Hernandez.
The Smile Sessions—a total of 144 tracks (in its most complete available form) from the 80 sessions recorded by The Beach Boys between 1966 and 1967 for the never-issued LP SMiLE—contains some of the most provocative musical ideas of the last half-century in any genre of music. But it has taken nearly 45 years for it to be officially released.
For an album peppered with so many electronic sources, much of itsnotyouitsme’s Everybody’s Pain sounds surprisingly earthy and organic (as suggested by Allegrea Rosenberg’s striking cover art, which features roots and branches framed in a kind of pixelated, psychedelicized landscape). It’s a good fit for an album in which electronic sounds and processing are frequently used to conjure textures that seem almost more “alive” than the sound of traditional acoustic instruments.
Like walking along the stone floors of cathedrals built ages ago or gazing at the portraits of kings whose reins have long since ended, Gregory Spears’s Requiem offers its audience a similarly blurred aesthetic experience, dissolving the present moment into an imagined history suggested by the trappings of style and language.
It seems perfectly natural that cellist Matt Haimovitz, who in the very early 21st century moved the Bach cello suites out of the concert hall and into what were at the time “alternative” performance spaces such as bars and nightclubs, would join forces with pianist Christopher O’Riley, who has created his own piano arrangements of songs by Nirvana and Radiohead to name just a few.
Among the more effective “piano + one” possibilities is piano plus flute which goes back to at least Mozart and counts among its enduring repertoire works from Franz Schubert, Felix Mendelssohn, Cecile Chaminade, Serge Prokofiev, York Bowen, Samuel Barber, Paul Bowles, Francis Poulenc, Olivier Messiaen, Aaron Copland, and even John Cage. And in recent years, several recordings have shown that the combination of flute and piano continues to be intriguing.
Benjamin Broening’s catalog is rich in electroacoustic works, and as founder and artistic director of the University of Richmond’s Third Practice Festival he has likewise affirmed that the marriage of experimental sonic expressivity with an almost vocal sense of line is not merely one of convenience, but rather a deep source of inspiration.
Every now and then some music comes along containing a clash of sensibilities that forces listeners to confront head on the limitations of listening to music within the context of a genre, whatever genre, as well as attempting to listen beyond genre. Take, for example, the seemingly innocuously titled Modern Music, recently released by Nonesuch. While it is ostensibly a series of duets performed by jazz pianists Brad Mehldau and Kevin Hays, the disc’s digipack cover and spine contain the additional credit “composed and arranged by Patrick Zimmerli.”
With her latest CD, Mosaic, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington has assembled a jaw-dropping lineup of musicians who happen to all be female, including Cassandra Wilson, Esperanza Spalding, Nona Hendryx, Tineke Postma, Sheila E., Geri Allen, and many others. The intention of the project, as the liner notes describe, is to “comment on historical, current and appropriately feminine themes with the intent to offer an informative, enjoyable listening experience, driven by creativity and consciousness.”