Album Review

Xenakis, Iannis – “Oresteia ” – [Musical Heritage Society]

Thurston Hunger   1/4/2007   12-inch, A Library

Heavy duty fanfare in this composition from Xenakis circa 1966-67, but
the source for inspiration and the power of presentation are timeless.
Slippery strings, primordial trombone, rattley percussion (Xenakis
*always* gave the orchestral drummer some!!) and then fascinating banks
of vocals. His approach to ancient drama is compelling, a focus on the
raw, simple voice often monotone though omniscient is, well, godlike!
Emphatic chorus shouts, powerful often hammered in strident form on
a strong cadence, but then at times odd divergent harmonies pull the
ranks apart. A children’s chorus is employed as well. Pieces of this
reminded me of Ake Hoddel’s work, and there are even motifs that have
a sort of James Tiberius Kirk flare to them. “Eumenides” is the ‘hit’
wooden ripples sounding like an Empreintes Digitales supercomputer
effect, weird whistles, gongs, bullfrog deep contrabassoons. Yelps
of chaotic passion. I could have sworn there were electronics used
in creating this triumphant track, but apparently not. Haunting
near robotic martial chorus voices are chilling, and the kids don’t
make it any calmer (kids’ choruses can be the scariest thing, just
ask any Italian horror filmmaker). Mourning may not become Elektra,
but this release must have become stimulating theater (indeed
reports are that the audience themselves were given instruments
to join in the strum und clang.

As performed by:
Ars Nova Ensemble w/ Stephane Cailat Vocal Ensemble
Marius Constant, Director

-Thurston Hunger

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