There are plenty of unique albums out there, of course, but San Francisco-based Common Eider, King Eider’s Sense of Place is a particular standout in this regard. The unusual packaging of the project lends an air of mystery to the proceedings, like receiving keys and a map to an adventure of unknown parameters ahead.
In Guy Klucevsek’s Polka from the Fringe, which is similar in spirit to the roughly contemporaneous Waltz and Tango Projects, composers directly engage in the squeezebox’s more quotidian roots. The next time someone comes up to you claiming to be able to define new music, tell him or her to listen to these recordings.
With Scorpion Tales, Duo Scorpio doesn’t require you set aside all of your wedding prelude and garden party images of the harp before you hit play, but they are going to stretch those sonic ideas out of whack once things get going. This may be the sum distillation of the work included on this album—it doesn’t build barriers out of repertoire, but it does open quite a few windows in the library.
In the liner notes of her latest recording, Almost Truths and Open Deceptions, Annie Gosfield writes of her “parallel lives” performing music with her own band and writing fully notated compositions for other musicians and ensembles. With both of those worlds represented on this recording, it seems more that her two creative worlds are deeply interconnected, influencing one another and sharing common musical elements and sources of inspiration.
Over the years I’ve heard Gene Pritsker’s music both in symphony orchestra halls and clubs. In another era, it would not have fit comfortably in either setting but now it’s at home in both. And yet Pritsker’s chamber opera, William James’s Varieties of Religious Experience, recently released on Composers Concordance Recordings, still manages to sound unsettling to me.
Reading the memoirs of Ernst Krenek while listening to a new boxed set of his five symphonies—recorded over the past two decades by the North German Radio Philharmonic Hanover and released in May by CPO—helps rekindle the Austrian-born American immigrant’s world of strength and beauty, revealing the tumultuous life and searing music of an unjustly overlooked composer.
Taken as a whole, the work included on From Japan may stand as a document to Carl’s multifaceted exploration of the intersection between American and Japanese musical culture. In much broader and perhaps simpler terms, however, it is evidence of how careful a listener Robert Carl is, and how generously he invites us all to listen with him.