In the brief artist comments that accompany this disc—recorded live at the Prism in Charlottesville, Virginia—William Parker shares his philosophy that if “every human being in the world played one hour of music at the beginning of each day there would be no world turmoil.” The opening track, “Angels in Golden Mud,” gives the listener a window into just how Parker and Bill Cole might start their days. The two players reach out to connect with the wide world via instrument, the didgeridoo of Australia and the doson ngoni from Mali, and then intimately chatter with one another, as if alone in deep confidence.
Easily the most beautiful thing I heard all week, Fox’s haunting memorial for his friend, composer/performer John Kuhlman (1954-1996), scored for four cellos and double bass is deep on so many levels. It’s featured on a CD-single offering only 15 minutes of music, but you won’t want to listen to something for a while after you’ve heard this.
Madeleine Shapiro, cello
Though composer Ge Gan-ru, considered by many to be China’s first avant-garde composer, crossed the Pacific before the Tan Dun-Bright Sheng-Chen Yi cavalcade, Madeleine Shapiro’s aggressive performance of his Yi Feng for amplified solo cello is the first recording of his music ever made publicly available. The piece is not only an intellectual, but physical workout for the soloist. Shapiro must employ unusual styles of bowing, plucking, and pounding on the body of her instrument to simulate the character of an Eastern timbral landscape. (A new recording devoted exclusively to Ge’s orchestral work has also just been released on BIS).
Ed. Note: I have to personally apologize for the misinformation above. I’ve been a huge fan of Ge Gan-ru’s music for years and was so excited to see his name on a commercially-released CD when I read Molly’s commentary. Her original comment did not include a reference to this recording being a first. That was my over-zealous interjection.
Mr. Ge has rightly pointed out to me that not only is this not the first commercially-released recording of his music, it is also not the first commercially-released recording of the composition Yi Feng, which previously appeared in a performance by Frank Su Huang on the CRI CD, eXchange China. Strange, I even own a copy of this CD and have listened to it several times. (Perhaps this adds further fodder to folks who say I’ve got too many recordings!) Unfortunately, eXchange China, which also features otherwise unavilable works by eight other Chinese-American composers, is now out of print although it seems that several copies can still be snatched up for a pittance on Amazon. The lack of availability of the CRI back catalog has definitely left major chasms in the discography of contemporary American music. Luckily, Madeleine Shapiro’s excellent recording makes this important work available once again. At any rate, what remains true is that all too little of Ge Gan-ru’s music is commercially available on recordings and that recognition for this important pioneer in the synthesis of Chinese and Euro-American musical traditions is long overdue.
Ariel String Quartet
D’Arcy Reynolds’s music defies listeners to guess when it was written. At times completely immersed in the past, while soon thereafter totally contemporary. Although her music defies time, today is her birthday. The past keeps changing indeed! Happy birthday.
Robert Spring, clarinet; ProMusica Chamber Orchestra conducted by Timothy Russell
The way Peter Schickele has incorporated Philip Glass-influenced melodies into the otherwise non-minimalist music he writes under his own name (rather than as PDQ) shows how evolution never quite works out in predictable ways. One minute into the first movement of his Clarinet Concerto, featured on a disc primarily of American premieres, and Schickele uses those trademark arpeggios to show off the tone quality of the clarinet throughout its range.
Fred Sherry, cello; Boston Modern Orchestra Project conducted by Gil Rose
Every possible way to introduce a soloist in a concerto has been done to death, so why not just verbally introduce him? That’s what Steve Mackey asks conductor Gil Rose of BMPT to do with cellist Fred Sherry in his zany Banana Dump Truck which also features some really cool percussion writing. Filling out the CD are his now trademark prog-rock saturated electric guitar forays both with Cherry and BMOP.
1. John Mackey: Breakdown Tango (8:57)
2-5. George Tsontakis: Eclipse (21:52)
6. James Matheson: Buzz (6:43)
7. Kevin Puts: Simaku (7:35)
8. Stefan Freund: dodecaphunphrolic (3:36)
9-14. Carter Pann: Antares (18:33)
1. Julián Carrillo: Preludio a Colon (9:52)
2. Lou Harrison: At The Tomb Of Charles Ives (3:51)
3-4. Giacinto Scelsi: Ko-Lho (9:17)
5. Iannis Xenakis: Anaktoria (15:27)
6-8. Charles Ives: String Quartet #2 (22:19)
9-10. Harry Partch: 2 Settings From Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (6:49)