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    Erling Wold + Douglas Kearney – Mordake

    November 23rd, 2010

    Erling Wold + Douglas Kearney - Mordake.

    This disc of the compact variety showed up at random in my post office box containing, of all the unexpected things, a chamber opera! I’ve never been a huge fan of opera in general, and I don’t know much about it, but I’ll give it a shot. This classic good vs. evil story chronicles a tragic battle between an aristocratic scholar and musician named Edward Mordake and his sister, Brigit. Although the plot is rather fuzzy, I just can’t bring myself to spoil it. But, I can say that there is plenty of suspense, mayhem, murder and the protagonist sports a very unusual deformity in the form of a second face on the back of his head. Brandishing lines like, “Once, there was a boy who ate his family. He began with his sister while still in their mother,” the whole thing is deliciously bloody. And the musical backdrop, which is made of electronically processed orchestral music and sound effects, weaves it all into a demented whole–complete with oddball, hyper, melodic chamber music that alternates with airy yet unsettling drones. If you like contemporary opera or Macbeth, give violence a chance. Mordake delivers the pizza with a sinister smile.

    Label: MinMax Music Catalog Number: CD 018 Format: CD Packaging: Jewel case Tracks: 14 Total Time: 57:45 Country: United States Released: 2010 More: Human Marvels, Official, SF Gate, Starkland, Wikipedia

    Text ©2010 Arcane Candy

    Isabelle O’Connell – Reservoir

    November 15th, 2010

    Isabelle O'Connell - Reservoir.

    Reservoir is a container of nine fluid piano pieces (penned by nine different Irish composers) that the highly talented Dublin-born New York City-based ivory tickler Isabelle O’Connell has enjoyed playing over the past 15 years. Ian Wilson’s “Big” flows smoothly from thorny to haunting. Jane O’Leary’s “Forgotten Worlds” is more delicate and lyrical with occasional bus stops on dimes. Briefly quoting a bunch of famous songs in rapid succession, Jennifer Walshe’s really-fun-to-listen-to “becher” shifts abruptly from one song and style to another, from subdued to poppy and back again, kind of like a Naked City song scored for solo piano. My favorite track, Donnacha Dennehy’s “Reservoir” maintains a minimally pinging air of intrigue, then, halfway through its 10-minute length, enters an elegant cloud of mystery.

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    Ted Hearne – Katrina Ballads

    November 14th, 2010

    Ted Hearne - Katrina Ballads

    In August 2005, the costliest natural disaster in United States history battered New Orleans, Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina: 175 mph winds, failed levees, a submerged city, at least 1,836 dead and scores more left homeless. On the fifth anniversary of the catastrophe, Ted Hearne’s Katrina Ballads, a 70-minute cycle of 10 songs and two instrumental interludes, blows into town to offer a musical retrospective of the damage. Prominently featured is an odd combination of vibrato-laden, operatic singers belting out non-lyrical, direct quotes from survivors, relief workers, politicians, celebrities and news accounts of the disaster, and the Bush administration’s bungled response.

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    Stefan Poetzsch – Light On

    November 13th, 2010

    Stefan Poetzsch - Light On

    Light on! Light off! Light on, light off! I’m sorry. For a minute there, I got the title of this CD confused with The Clapper. All applause aside, Light On is actually a compact disc by German composer and violinist Stefan Poetzsch. It presents two whole suites of rich, reverberant new music composed of equal parts instrumental and electronic sound processing. The title piece, for three instruments, three dancers and light installation, is broken up into seven parts that veer unpredictably from one unknown genre to the next. Spare, strange, baroque music for the 21st century, spacious John Coltrane rock, mad scientist pipe organ madness, field recordings of chirping birds and waterfalls sprinkled with light instrumental flourishes and flickering rhythms, and other indescribable sounds rummage through the rumpled up creases of your brain.

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    Amstel Quartet – Amstel Peijl

    November 12th, 2010

    Amstel Quartet - Amstel Peijl

    Hailing from the low-lying Netherlands, the possibly soon-to-be-waterlogged (if you believe in global warming) Amstel Quartet is comprised of four saxophonists who, on this CD, puff out three perfectly pleasant tunes that trace a brief history of their chosen instrument. On the opening track, accompanied by a pianist, they time travel all the way back to 1898 to tackle French composer Gabriel Faure’s “Pelleas et Melisande, Suite, Op. 80.” This piece gently glides like a gull over a barren beach, then effortlessly floats over a pastoral panorama full of fluttering, whimsical butterflies. Jumping three decades ahead, the musicians explore Russian composer Alexander Glazunov’s 1932 piece “Saxophone Quartet Op. 109,”‘which is recognized as the first classic work for the sax quartet. This piece must have helped more than a few fervent fans flutter their way through the Great Depression. The best is saved for last as the group enters the modern age for an engagement with Phillip Glass’ 1995 work, “Saxophone Quartet,” in which repetitive melodies bounce off of each other in a spiffy reverie for a glorious sunrise. Word on the street is that if you pipe this kind of music into in a dangerous neighborhood, crime will decrease dramatically. So, crank it up and get super mellow with the thugs!

    Label: CAG Records Catalog Number: cag102 Format: CD Packaging: Jewel case Tracks: 16 Total Time: 63:13 Country: United States Released: 2008 More: Amazon, CD Baby, Official

    Text ©2010 Arcane Candy

    Various Artists – Works by Robert Erickson, Harvey Sollberger, Peter Westergaard, Phillip Rhodes, Edwin Dugger

    November 11th, 2010

    Various Artists - Works by Robert Erickson, Harvey Sollberger, Peter Westergaard, Phillip Rhodes, Edwin Dugger

    This 1999 CD collects five thorny avant-garde pieces from the 1960s for small instrumental chamber ensembles. All of these tracks were previously issued on three old Acoustic Research LPs. Phillip Rhodes’ “Duo For Violin and Cello” throws a few fleeting, homely melodies into a morass of prickly jabs before the whole thing surrenders to a mellow mood. Employing both traditional and experimental techniques, Harvey Sollberger’s “Grand Quartet for Flutes” sprays out a slew of sprightly melodies that tumble across each other like a gaggle of drunk gymnasts.

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    Various Artists – Portraits of Three Ladies

    November 10th, 2010

    Various Artists - Portraits of Three Ladies

    Here we have three chunks of serialism-inspired American music from the 1960s. Right out of the gate, an orchestra spackles some seriously quirky instrumental music all over your entire head during Charles Whittenberg’s “Variations for Nine Players,” which steadily progresses from shy single notes to brazen chords. Edwin London’s incredibly boisterous “Portraits of Three Ladies” adds a narrator, a singer and, ironically, plenty of drama and outright free jazz-like scree to the great big bowl of serial that is this CD. Sans emotional vocalists, Richard Hoffman’s “Orchestra Piece 1961” harks back to the formal serialism of “Variations.” Sonorities shift abruptly from light tinkles to blaring explosions, forming a rigorous yet invigorating sound world in the process. When all is sung and done, this is a perfect CD for anyone seeking challenging 20th century music.

    Label: New World Records Catalog Number: 80562-2 Format: CD Packaging: Jewel case Tracks: 5 Total Time: 51:38 Country: United States Released: 1999 More: Richard Hoffman, Edwin London, Charles Whittenberg, New World Records

    Text ©2010 Arcane Candy

    Salvatore Martirano – O, O, O, O, That Shakespeherian Rag

    November 9th, 2010

    Salvatore Martirano - O, O, O, O, That Shakespeherian Rag

    Salvatore Martirano (1927-1995) was a composer of instrumental and computer music. Not only that, he was an actual Professor of Music at the University of Illinois for over three decades! (In fact, if you stacked up all of the papers that he graded over the years, they would stretch all the way from Earth to the Van Allen radiation belt.) In case you recently got hit on the head with a five pound block of cheese and now have amnesia, UI was a hotbed of electronic and computer music back in the 1950s and ’60s, with the likes of Lejaren Hiller, James Tenney, Kenneth Gaburo, Herbert Brun and others brewing up groundbreaking works regularly. This here O, O, O, O, That Shakespeherian Rag compact disc collects instrumental works that span all the way from 1959 to 1979–from the era of real malt shops to fake ones on Happy Days. Licking, I mean kicking off the program, “Cocktail Music” fills the room with the kind of dissonant solo piano plonk that might make Conlon Nancarrow grin. “Octet” ruffles everyone else’s feathers with a round of super-quirky chamber music via bass clarinet, flute, contra-alto clarinet, celeste, violin, cello and bass marimba.

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    Joan La Barbara – Shamansong

    November 8th, 2010

    Joan La Barbara - Shamansong

    Joan La Barbara Is an avant-garde composer and vocalist who has been, um, composing and vocalising since the 1970s. Shamansong is a collection of three long atmospheric pieces that each exceed the 20-minute mark. Composed in 1991 but revised in 1998, the title track opens it all up with a film score that follows a woman into a bleak desert. Her breathy vocals meander languidly through the barren landscape accompanied by only an acoustic instrument or two at a time–cello, dumbek, gender, harp, music box, percussion, rainstick, shakuhachi and rattle–plus other elements like crystals, stones, metal rods and more. What it all amounts to is an ultra-restrained exercise in spare subtlety and nature-as-music ritual.

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