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Free, like dandelion seeds

Writing a series of 24 short keyboard pieces in all the major and minor keys of a 12-note scale (whether equally-tempered or otherwise) is, of course, an idea that goes back to Bach, but it has since captured the imagination of composers as unrelated as Chopin and Shostakovich. It’s an idea that continues to resonate […]

Soliloquy for clarinet, Op. 21

Don Ross, clarinet Though the liner notes make a point of labeling the nationality of the composers included in this collection (mostly Belgians and Canadians), the distinctions seem irrelevant when the focus is so firmly on worshipping at the alter of the clarinet in styles that these same notes outline as “lyrical introversion or pessimistic […]

Megaton for Wm. Burroughs

If you aren’t overly attached to your laptop, a listen to this disc might just inspire you to dust off that old soldering gun and tangle yourself in a web of patch chords. Of course the tactile heyday of live electronic music is far behind us, but a listen back to Gordon Mumma’s Megaton for […]

Orpheus

Dominic Inferrera, baritone Washington Square Contemporary Music Society Players While Albany’s new disc devoted to the music of Louis Karchin, all of which was composed in the 21st century, primarily consists of art songs for solo voice and piano accompaniment, the high point here for me is a nearly 30-minute masque for baritone, dancers, and […]

Strange and Sacred Noise

Percussion Group Cincinnati There are certain experiences in life for which you have to focus and “get your head right”—scenarios like acupuncture or going to a La Monte Young concert come to mind. John Luther Adams’s 70-minute work for percussion ensemble seems like it would require a similar sort of preparation, but really you can’t […]

Wind Shadows

Space may be the place for Sun Ra, but the room that you happen to be sitting in at any given moment is the realm of Alvin Lucier. Time to ditch those headphones and turn up the volume, otherwise you’ll be missing the full impact of Lucier’s work. If you’ve never experienced the engulfing sweep […]

Duke’s Tune

According to the program notes, Duke’s Tune is an electronic composition based on a theme composed by a potbellied pig who lives in a shelter in Solvang, California, where he is the “artist-in-residence.” I’m not making this up. There are even photos showing the pig playing mallet percussion. According to Schrader, Duke also plays keyboards, […]

It looks very well on you…

OK, so it’s a bit predictable to single this track out of Bennett’s three-act, 40-scene opera, coming as it does at the climax of the first act. But the impassioned duet between the two female leads functions very much as the jewel in the opera’s crown, showcasing both the power of the singers and the […]

Contextures II: The Final Beast

Dedicated to the victims of all wars, William Kraft’s unsettling Contextures II: The Final Beast, a massive 1986 cantata for adult vocal soloists, boy’s chorus, and a large orchestra with tons of percussion, is screaming out for a revival. It’s more than crystal clear message should blare on radio stations across the country. I can […]

Men

If there was any danger that David Lang’s output is being overshadowed by his involvement with colleagues Michael Gordon and Julia Wolfe as part of Bang on a Can, Elevated should help him…ehem…rise above that. This new two-CD set on BoaC house label Cantaloupe includes an audio-only disc and a DVD of the same works […]