John Adams’s most recent album, released by Nonesuch, could essentially be seen as an exercise in nostalgia; City Noir, commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, is an homage to the city of Los Angeles and its movie-making style of the 1940s and ’50s, while the Saxophone Concerto gives a hat tip to Adams’s own jazz-steeped upbringing.
The product of a collaboration between composer/guitarist George Heathco and soprano/lyricist Misha Penton, Ravens and Radishes is a song cycle for guitar, cello, and voice that takes inspiration from classic fairy tales and, unlike the recent film Maleficent, recasts them in a new and interesting light instead of, say, ruining them.
Listening to Robert Erickson’s quartets brings to mind the image of an onion: at first glance, an onion is, well, an onion—basic and non-threatening. But as each layer is peeled away, the onion becomes more pungent and affects the person peeling it with greater, often times uncontrollable intensity.
Composers Jefferson Friedman and Craig Wedren have joined forces to shove their different-yet-connected musical worlds successfully closer together into the album On In Love. With the ensemble ACME, the two have constructed a group of songs that are dramatic, unpredictable, and beautifully crafted, serving up both both punch and substance.
Meredith Monk: Piano Songs, a new compilation performed by Ursula Oppens and Bruce Brubaker, features music that finds expressive possibilities in the act of moderating between extremes. Old and new, traditional and experimental, memory and transformation–within all those competing forces, Monk’s music seems to hover at a point of balance.
Two pianists who recently caught my attention with new releases devoted exclusively to American music composed within the last quarter century are Nicholas Phillips and Mary Kathleen Ernst. All in all, 17 composers are represented on these discs, showing that the instrument that once was a mainstay in households all across the land still has a home in the 21st century.