Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Various - PostCage (OgreOgress)
I'm not quite sure what, if anything, the pieces here have to with Cage aside from the fact that, more or less, they were composed after his death and presumably contain some amount of his influences (what doesn't?) so I'll simply comment on each of the 14 works, which are arranged alphabetically on the disc. Oh, and this release is on DVD format so there's quite a bit of music here (over two hours). And, by and large, it's very enjoyable.
1) Maria de Alvear - "for violin" (1994). Christina Fong, violin. A very lyrical piece, not sounding particularly 1994-ish at all, free form but residing in melody. More Shostakovich, to my ears than Cage, though if you take the latter at his most ariose. It wanders but is quite lovely in doing so, beautifully played.
2) Arved Ashby - "For Morton Feldman" (1992) for violin, piano and glockenspiel (Fong, Ashby and Glenn Freeman). As the composer mentions in his notes, perhaps not so reminiscent of Feldman, again quite lyrical though more overtly structured than the prior piece, shifting layers gently wafting over one another. Quite poignant and even romantic in nature.
3) David Beardsley - "November Test Pattern..." (2009) for justly intoned sine tones. Changing gears quite a bit, this is a fine, rich drone piece. The composer writes, "It's not going anywhere because it's already there." True enough! It sits and throbs, swirling, its mass contained but pulsing. La Monte Young comes to mind (the Blues Band) but this is a strong and separately standing work. The best kind of drone: one where you can listen from multiple angles, always hearing a different combination of layers.
4) Dionysis Boukouvalas - "Meditation" (2010), Paul Hersey, piano. A spare, delicate piece, the sequences arrayed via Cageian "time brackets", the notes, chords and other sounds relatively tonal and comforting, with substantial space between them. We also hear radio voices, a baby's cry (disconcerting, that). Very nice work, ephemeral but leaving a fine tinge.
5) Marc Chan - "I Sail'd Out to Sea" (2009) for 3 voice and instruments. Kind of a mix of medieval chant and Feldman, too bland for my tastes, the voices slowly weaving between (I think) clarinet, violin and bowed percussion), everything stretched out a bit and *almost* transcending the mundane, but not quite.
6) J.R. Dooley - "for violin and piano" (2010), Fong and Hersey. A jaunty little piece, "a fragment of a memory" per the composer and you do get something of a sense of the fleeting, difficult-to-capture nature of such. A seven-note figure sounds, lies still, repeats, altered, like a flicker appearing and receding, blossoms a bit at the very end. Winsome and lovely.
7) Jürg Frey - "Viola, Klavier" (1997). Same duo. Well, I'm a known sucker for Frey. Quiet, raspy lines, silences, lone notes, more space. You know the drill. Only 5 1/2 minutes long but full of space, always expanding. Wonderful.
8) Walter Horn - Five Decadal Studies for Dick and Clyde (1972/2010). For piano, viola and vibraphone. [caveat: I've known Walt since about 1997 and, in fact, he gave me my first public exposure vis a vis music writing when he asked me to do the liners for his "Screwdriver!" release on Leo records back around then] A quintet of slightly gnarly pieces, offsetting the spiky and the serene, the irregular and the strangely formed, sharp-edged objects hovering in space, occasionally colliding. Possibly the most challenging works on this disc and definitely among the most rewarding.
9) David Kotlowy - "Under Stars (2006) for two violins and piano (Fong, Hersey)
Written with harold Budd in mind and apparently using the breath lengths of the performers as time indicators, layering subtly integrated harmonics from the violins between shorter, adjacent piano chords, conjuring up a kind of dreamscape that's bittersweet. One of the prettiest works here.
10) Sergio Luque - "My Idea of Fun" (2010) for clarinet, percussion and viola. Using Cage's time brackets and Xenakis' sieves, resulting in a work that is indeed fun but sounds little like either, to these ears. As with several pieces here, there's a combination of spareness and melodicism. It's very fetching on its own even if I sometimes hanker for a bit more sourness. Luque provides some, as well as a dose of mystery here, the music seeping in, in wisps, forming unison tendrils, dissipating. Another evocative composition, another composer I'd like to hear further.
11) Robert Moran/Philip Glass - Modern Love Waltz (1977/2010) for 8 keyboards minus piano, played by David Toub. Man, it's been ages since I've heard Moran and remember liking a couple of his early 80s pieces very much, though never having any on record, I don't think. He's apparently been reworking this Glass composition for decades, in hundreds of forms. But...it sounds like standard Glass carpeting, like an extract from a relatively humdrum part of "Einstein" softened somewhat, with a glossy patina that reminds me a bit of Daniel Lentz. Not something I needed to be reminded of.
12) John Prokop - for 1 or 7 pianists (1997), for 7 pianists (Hersey). a kind of overlapped and mixed ascending chromatic scale, its skeleton clearly audible yet skewed enough that all sorts of slight, subtle patterns emerge. Minimalism without the strictness. Sounds like it could almost have come from Tom Johnson. I mean that in a good way. Really nice.
13)Sebastian Jatz Rawicz - 4 Recipes from Antimusical Book of Recipes (2010). Ah, something entirely different. Performed by the Chance Operations Collective of Kalamazoo, wielding vacuum cleaners (I think) and other appliances, found percussion, moved objects, glass, bird whistles and more in a suite of four short pieces that seems to come closer to Cage as such than perhaps any other work here, though it oddly reminds me of Cardew as well, perhaps a fragmented page of The Great Learning. Refreshing.
14) David Toub - dharmachakramudra (2010) for vibraphone, viola and cello (Freeman, Fong, Karen Krummel). Another work that fits in with the general tone of this collection, the soft, slightly dissonant string lines punctuated by gentle gong-like notes from the vibes, nodding to Buddhist tradition. Contemplative, with enough meat to avoid evaporating entirely, edging into tension at points.
All in all, a strong set of music from a range of composers likely not too well known to most readers here but worth delving into more deeply, no matter what one's opinion is of Mr. Cage.