If I’m completely candid, the two large dinosaurs dominating the cover were what first attracted my attention to Travel Diary, a CD of works for percussion duo composed by Tristan Perich, Nathan Davis, David Lang, and Paul Lansky. Was there any way this album could end without someone being eaten alive?
While there have been many composers who have explored combining Western musical forms and orchestrations with elements from the art music of China, Japan, Iran, India, and Indonesia, very few have attempted a similar rapprochement with the music of Thailand. But the music of a Thailand-born composer now based in Kansas City, Narong Prangcharoen, has perhaps been the most effective thus far in seamlessly weaving Thai and Western classical idioms.
John Bischoff is a composer celebrated for his work at the cutting edge of live computer music, explorations that can be traced back all the way to the late 1970s and his experiments with his first KIM-1. Audio Combine, the recent New World Records release of Bischoff pieces spanning 2004-2011, is an undeniable reminder that, though his roots run deep, his music hasn’t been anchored.
Imaginary Islands, the latest entry in Bridge Records’ rather extensive Lansky discography, is composed expressly for and performed entirely by a symphony orchestra with no electronic elements whatsoever. Throughout his life, Lansky actually had composed for corporeal performers on acoustic instruments, or—as he jokingly describes them in his notes for the present CD—“carbon based life forms,” even though his reputation as a composer was established almost exclusively on the basis of his electronic music. Nevertheless, the three compositions collected on this new disc, all of which were composed within the last five years, chart a remarkable new compositional direction.
Before the Aeolus Quartet returned to the frozen Northeast, they entered the studios at UT Austin to record Many-Sided Music, an album of new works by American composers, its title taken from Leonard Bernstein’s description of the “many-sidedness” of American music. I’ve had the good fortune of hearing several of these pieces live, fresh, and new, but it’s great to hear them with the benefit of time and reflection.
Kick & Ride proves an apt title for composer Eric Moe’s recent BMOP Sound release, highlighting his use of drum set and percussion throughout the three compositions represented. The high energy works, characterized by Moe in the liner notes as “cantankerous sisters,” indeed deliver shots of dramatic flair and suspenseful anxiety that could nearly persuade a listener to skip that all-important morning cup of coffee.
Steve Roden’s …i listen to the wind that obliterates my traces (music in vernacular photographs 1880-1955) is a multimedia package that attracts attention with a whisper and glance, rather than a bell and a whistle. Two CDs containing a total of 51 tracks of early American music are slipped into the front and back cover pockets of a cleanly designed hardback book, the interior heavyweight pages are bursting with scans of 150 historic photographs.
Danger Garden (2006), the composition which opens a new disc devoted to Hughes’s music and also lends its name to the CD’s title, is an extraordinary aural rendering of the zeitgeist, an era offering more opportunities than any other heretofore albeit at the risk of information overload and attention deficit.