There is something invigorating about the diversity of Henry Brant’s career. But there is one corner of his catalog that doesn’t get mentioned much: his music for children. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Brant wrote three original scores for records produced by Young People’s Records and its successor, the Children’s Record Guild—some of the hippest children’s records ever made.
Dissolving Images is a great introduction to Mark Gustavson’s compositional aesthetic, one which seamlessly blends heady structural rigor with emotional intensity and humor. Although each of these five pieces—two solos and three chamber works—is strictly notated, some of the material hints at the musical vocabulary of improvisatory traditions ranging from early jazz to Middle Eastern maqam and other non-Western idioms.
It’s refreshing to hear the bassoon edging it’s way towards the sonic foreground in contemporary music. Anyone with doubts about how cool the instrument can be has not yet heard bassoonist Rebekah Heller perform; in her hands, the oft-underappreciated instrument is transformed into a fierce creature that cannot be ignored onstage.
While Jacqueline Humbert and David Rosenboom’s Daytime Viewing is a by-product of that brief window in the late 1970s and early 1980s when a fusion of experimental music and New Wave created numerous uncategorizable hybrids, it is also very much a harbinger of our own much longer-lasting “indie-classical” zeitgeist.
This lovely new recording by the Eclipse Quartet and percussionist William Winant is, primarily, united by the relatively unusual, pleasantly mad scientist-ish combination of string quartet and percussion. But it also presents three works that wear their respective approaches to marking the time on their sleeves.
A couple of months ago, I came across a new disc devoted to Christine Southworth’s music with an immediately identifiable title, String Quartets. But after hearing the truly new sound world she created in her earlier disc—called Zap! Music for Van de Graaff Generator, Tesla Coils, Instruments & Voices—I was quite sure she’d create something totally unusual despite using the most popular instrumental combination in all of chamber music. She did not disappoint!
Who is Luke Cissell? It sounds like the name of a character from either a Louis L’Amour or Flannery O’Connor novel, or perhaps the protagonist in something published in Astounding Stories magazine. Fittingly, the press release that accompanied a CD of his music described it as “bluegrass on a distant planet.”