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The Ceiling of Heaven

The “Prelude: Distant Fanfares” title did not prepare me for the strong yet muted tones of the opening movement of Donald Crockett’s piano quartet The Ceiling of Heaven. To my ear, this choice translates the distance as not one of miles, but more of internal repression. The pose of emotional restraint and blunt declaration is […]

Radiance

Think of it as a sort of improvised Well-Tempered Clavier. Keith Jarrett’s rubric of 17 numbered improvisations, gathered here in this tomb-like collection dubbed Radiance, is a thorough investigation into the pianist’s own imaginative prowess. As always, these live recordings are punctuated by Jarrett’s grunts and vocalise which may provide further insight into the wiring […]

Universe Symphony

AFMM Orchestra conducted by Johnny Reinhard Long considered the El Dorado or Shangri-La of American music, the Universe Symphony of Charles Ives was to be his magnum opus, a summation of all music that had gone before and a foreshadowing of all that was to come. History books tell us that Ives never finished it […]

For Birds, Planes & Cello

At the end of July, a movie theater around here screened Mary Ellen Carroll’s Federal, a 24-hour “movie” focused on the exterior of the Federal Building in Los Angeles—an observational twist, given that the structure houses offices of the FBI and CIA. In many ways, Miya Masaoka’s new release, For Birds, Planes & Cello, inspires […]

Court Dances

Michael Parloff, flute; Jerry Grossman, cello; Kenneth Cooper, harpsichord I’ve been saying for years that some of the newest sounding music is the music that contemporary composers are writing for older musical instruments. A new disc featuring the music by septuagenarian Chelsea Hotel-resident Gerald Busby, on which the main instrument is the harpsichord, proves my […]

Dream on a Cirrus Sky

Ignore the PR machine behind Neo Camerata. According to the Svengalis, Neo C (their term, not mine) is hipper than cocaine circa 1977. Whether or not the group exudes that intangible rock band vibe, or—hold the phone—actually is hip, seems a little beside the point. In reality, it’s just a bunch of pretty chamber music […]

Crossroads

Lauten has plenty of large-scale compositions on her resume, but there is much to be said for looking to the intimate and often confessional quality of solo work performed by the composer, when it’s available, for a more complete vision of the artist. The stress of caring for her ill mother in Paris (during which […]

The Stars

This CD instantly brought me back to my high school days, when I’d lock myself in my room with some primitive sequencer, MidiVerb II, and a Proteus 1 Plus Orchestral Expander and spend hours on end making fantastic soundscapes. Man, sound quality has really evolved in—my god, is it really?—17 years. Anyway, I can admit […]

Symphony 8 in Four Movements

I listen to a lot of really off-the-wall music, but once in a blue moon something comes along that startles even me. Twin Cities-based Matthew Smith’s symphonies for overdubbed jaw harps, 1/16-th size Suzuki violins, normal strings, and assorted percussion are bizarre beyond belief. Something of a Captain Beefheart in reverse, Smith, after 30 years […]

An Italian Straw Hat

The National Ballet of Canada Orchestra, conducted by Ormsby Wilkins Michael Torke’s score for James Kudelka’s ballet An Italian Straw Hat is as upbeat as any Mozart ever penned for the stage, and it sets an appropriate tone for the classic farce without feeling dated. Though the toe-tapping action is of course left to the […]