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The Deaf Woman’s Courtship

Samuel Barber singing at the piano, from a radio broadcast at the Curtis Institute of Music on December 26, 1938Despite the ubiquity of singer/songwriters in all sorts of musical genres, much rarer is a singer among composers who principally create music in longer forms, especially prior to our own time. Which is what makes this […]

You Are (Variations)

Performed by the Los Angeles Master Chorale, with Grant Gershon conducting Steve Reich has a signature sound and it’s all over this work in the same way a master painter can often be ID’d by his brush strokes. We can anticipate how he’ll move through the music well enough to take pleasure when he does […]

Sweet Heresy

Sweet Heresy is an extremely unusual disc of duo performances on instruments created and performed by Untravelled Path, which is Mitsuko and Arthur Fankuchen of Taos, New Mexico. Theirs is an extraordinarily uncompromising slow and inward music inspired by musical traditions from around the world utilizing such instruments as bowed deep bass monochords played like […]

Apnée

I can’t swim, but I love floating in water, an activity to which I can devote myself until quite frozen and pruny. Zeitgeist’s performance of Apnée (poetry by Philippe Costaglioli) pushes the floating listener much further down beneath such a surface idyll. The piece is a mix of percussion, bass clarinet, voice, and electronic processing, […]

Piano Variations

Copland’s Piano Variations sounds like a recipe for hobo soup: austere structure, an atonal sounding theme, set theory-like development, massive chords, jazzy rhythms, moments of show tune whimsy, tone clusters, and one kitchen sink. This piecemeal classic gets the raucous performance it deserves delivered by Benjamin Pasternack. And the best part of all, it’s on […]

Songs of the Mouse People

A few years back, in the final days of CRI, I wrote the booklet notes for Martin Bresnick’s Opere della Musica Povera. The more I listened to his music, the more excited I became about the whole process of music and composing. It actually got me out of a major creative slump. Part of why […]

JC Love Field

For those in the crowd just counting the days until we can get rid of the pop/classical divide, Mikel Rouse throws his sledgehammer at the wall with a new album quite appropriately dedicated to both Steve Reich and Brian Wilson. Squint one eye and it seems to be all pop lyrics and pulses, squint the […]

Flow, Part I

Over a delicate backdrop of percussion, spare bass lines, and vivid electronic washes, trumpeter Terence Blanchard’s pronounced tone soars, effortlessly sketching elegant melodic phrases with a steady ebb and flow. With its catchy tune, the title track of Flow—an apt descriptive—manifests on three separate occasions over the course of the album. The overall vibe is […]

Rituals

Nexus and the Iris Chamber Orchestra conducted by Michael Stern As Garry Kvistad, one of the members of the percussion quintet Nexus, reminded me at the release party for this new Ellen Taaffe Zwilich disc on Naxos, there is no such thing as a percussion instrument with an indeterminate pitch. Every instrument has a pitch, […]

Third Hand – The Fallen

Have you ever seen old celluloid film catch fire and burn itself up while projected on the big screen? What would music sound like melting in such a way? Listening to jazz violinist Matt Maneri’s lastest release in his Blue Series, I can’t help but conjure the image as the recorded line moves in and […]