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Camille Sauvage “Fantasmagories” [Zippy]

cujo   10/14/2005   A Library, CD

Many listens later, I still have no clue what’s going on. I definitely have no idea who Camille Sauvage is. Pseudonym for a French percussionist? Is this a soundtrack? A concept album? Is it Jazz? If you know, please let us (ahem, me) know here in the comments section!

The music is very well described as the unholy love-child of Henry Mancini, those West Side Story drum outbursts, and a circus funhouse. Indeed, after the first few minutes I was reminded of Fantomas? Delirium Cordia release, but it veers away from such heaviness quickly. It seems as if it’s played by a traditional jazz band. Half the tracks are a bit ambient (especially 7,8, 12) and tend towards the background, the other half demand some attention. Very heavy on the drums (especially tracks 4 and 9) and random percussion instruments (especially track 10), including vibes (especially 3, 11) and an occassional jew’s harp appearance (6). Those hungry for some human presence will not find much; some finger snapping on track 6 and the briefest of appearance of a female voice (maybe) on the quiet track 11. Many of the earlier tracks end in a short burst of activity. All the crazy titles make the album out to be creepier than it actually is; nevertheless, added just in time for Halloween!

-Cujo, October 2005

Krzysztof Penderecki “Musica da Camera” [Wergo]

cujo   10/14/2005   A Library, CD

I know what you’re thinking. ‘Gosh-darn, I want to play some chamber music soooo bad. But I don’t want any of that namby-pamby Beethoven stuff, not even the late quartets, not even the Grosse Fugue! I need angry Polish people beating their instruments, scraping their cellos? private parts, extruding sounds from their fingerboard. Maybe instead I want newer, calmer music that can soothe and sound good, plagal cadences be damned!. Heck, I’ll even stoop so low as to settle for a clarinet, ‘I’m this hungry. And I only have 10 minutes til my next air break!?
Well, have I got the answer for you. Praise the heavens for this Wergo release of (most of) KP’s chamber music, all short pieces perfectly suited for our break clock. KP is mostly known for his larger-scale works, but these small works prove that KP is the real deal, the total package, a genius large and small. The 1950s student-era works are have the most classical bent to them (especially the Sonata), dig the Webernian atmosphere in the 3 violin miniatures. The 3 works from the 1960s have the most adrenaline and percussiveness to offer; the two quartets are just crazy (remember #2? I think it’s the bed over which Linda Blair throws up…) and the Capriccio is a solo cello showpiece. The 1970s? Apparently quite forgettable. The 1980s pieces all are much calmer, the Gedanke is almost saccharine, the viola Cadenza rivals Berio’s sequenzae, and Per Slava, while it has the name-drop going for it, turns out to be the least engaging piece on the disc – blame the not-Slava cellist? I was taken by pleasant surprise by the two clarinet pieces, the Prelude especially. And the longest piece at 13:35 is the 1991 String Trio, a virtuosic whopper, a return to a more visceral and threatening style: fierce repeated chords heralding solo meditations, finishing with a frenzied fugue. -Cujo, October 2005

Arvo P?rt “Triodion” [Hyperion]

cujo   9/23/2005   A Library, CD

Arvo P’rt‘s choral works from between 1996 and 2002 exquisitely sung by choral group Polyphony on the budget classical label Hyperion. Well-presented liner notes. His ‘tintinnabulation? style is still dominant in these eight pieces in various languages: English, Russian, Latin… The highlights are tracks 2 and 6, which are stunningly beautiful, 5 and 8 are also recommended. Arvo continues to prove Schoenberg right: there is still plenty of good music to be written in the key of C.
1. Dopo la vittoria(10:00) – As dance-like as Arvo’s ever gonna get. Very Italian madrigal-like.
2. Nunc dimittis(7:33) ‘A setting of the Nunc Dimittis, it is naturally a partner piece to his Magnificat that we have in the library.
3. …which was the son of…(7:30) ? As funny as Arvo’s ever gonna get. A setting of one of those ‘X begat Y begat Z…’ bible texts.
4. I Am the True Vine (10:15) ? A series of notes repeated with rhythmic fluctuation, spread around the voices. Blah.
5. Littlemore Tractus (6:28) – A little help from the organ for this track.
6. Triodion (14:13) ? Sublime setting of three odes from the Orthodox prayer book.
7. My Heart’s in the Highland (9:11) – Setting of a Robert Burns poem, with organ and tenor soloist. Tenor rarely varies from his one note, very critically appreciated work but it drove me batty.
8. Salve Regina (12:13) – More help from the organ for this work that builds to a big climax.

-Cujo, Sept. 2005

Uri Caine “Dark Flame” [Winter & Winter]

cujo   9/23/2005   A Library, CD

Who is the greater genius? Uri Caine for adapting Mahler’s lieder music into these unusual arrangements, or Mahler for writing such universal music. As a devout Mahler fan, I approached this album with trepidation, and I still am trepidated. Notables violinist Mark Feldman and bassist Michael Formanek guest star. If you enjoy this, we also have the later album where Uri appropriates Schumann lieder, and we don’t have an earlier, different Caine/Mahler effort (Primal Light) focusing on the symphonies. My preferred tracks were 2, 5, 10, and 13, but I have the feeling you may have an entirely different set of favorites and may even consider this a five-star album.
mahler-jazz fusion jam with piano, violin, trumpet, drums, and spoken word (track 1), woman singing gospel (2), cabaret (3), cabaret funeral waltz turns into caine original jazz turns into a narrated letter (4), an instrumental attempt at a funeral march and trio, with fireworks (5), chinese recitation and instrumentation (6), male German preaching over crazy guitar riff and pounding drums alternates with a motherly voice reciting English poetry over a piano-x duets (7), a man laments while the cabaret ensemble and mild electronics accompany (8), spoken word over the cabaret ensemble, still not too sure what he’s talking about after repeated listens. last words are ‘what was there to do… but die?’ (9), chinese instrumental (10), pleasant cabaret waltz with male vocal(11), short German spoken word over toy-pianoesque accompanist(12), lively instrumental cabaret arrangement. my favorite track, probably because it sounds most like the original Mahler (13), another version of track 2, but purely instrumental (14)
-Cujo, Sept. 2005

David Coulter/Michael Gira/Jean Marie Mathoul/Charlemagne Palestine “Gantse Mishpuchah: Music in 3 Parts” [Fringes]

cujo   9/23/2005   A Library, CD

Holy crap, this is intense. Three dense electro-acoustic drones that never let up and chill your bones. An album apparently recorded by correspondence between main players David Coulter, Michael Gira, Jean Marie Mathoul, and Charlemagne Palestine (all of whom except Mathoul are found elsewhere in our library). I have no idea what Gantse Mishpuchah means (is it Yiddish? Whole Shebang? Apr 2006: I have been alerted it means Whole Family), but one thing is clear: the apocalypse is upon us, and it is a drone.
Part # one (22:17): Sounds as if inspired by an L.A. traffic jam. Makes the floor shake. Some bells/gongs/pianos are chimed along the way, and towards the end somebody is actually strumming a guitar.
Part # two (15:35): Sounds as if the sounds of your Louisiana back porch was partially interpreted as a drone. Things that sound like frogs, owls, and creepy-crawlies interrupt the grasshopper-like drone. A thumping Afro-cuban beat melts in and out, as do some vocal and/or radio samples.
Part # three (15:47): Sounds as if inspired by an orchestra of one-stringed cellos and basses tuning up before a concert. Unyielding organ. Faint clips of people talking – possibly an urban street scene, looping of said voices. It ends abruptly then is followed by a few seconds of sounds of wind.
-Cujo, KFJC, September 2005

Charles Ives “Holidays Symphony/Unsanswered Question (rev.)/Central Park in the Dark/Unanswered Question (orig.)” [Sony Classical]

cujo   9/23/2005   A Library, CD

Washington’s Birthday (10:27): A wintry soundscape is difficult to break open. A vast simultaneous pop tune medley led by a jew’s harp livens the mood for a few minutes, until the cold sets in again. A solo violin tries to interrupt and keep the mood up, but ultimately fails.
Decoration Day (9:57): What we would call Memorial Day. Quiet contemplation leads off the piece. The Dies irae is hinted at here and there. A trumpet plays Taps over tremolo strings, and then a brilliant march erupts as you head back into town. When asked to name a masterpiece, Stravinsky named this piece.
The Fourth of July(6:04): Begins with a warped take on the Marseilles (the French national anthem!) Finishes with orchestral fireworks.
Thanksgiving and Forefathers? Day (14:57): A calm giving of thanks gives way to a huge celebration around the dinner table. Strings and celesta then lead a phenomenal austere and pastoral interlude. Catharsis is reached when the chorus enters singing Duke Street – an incredible moment.
The Unanswered Question (revised version) (7:13): over a slowly shifting bed of strictly diatonic strings, a trumpet asks a 5-note question, and a woodwind quartet answers. Repeat 5 times, woodwinds getting more and more atonal and crazed. Existential burning consumes you.
Central Park in the Dark (7:26): You’re sitting in the park around 1900. It’s pretty quiet. As you begin to listen to your surroundings, all sorts of distant sounds and music become apparent. Before you know it, there’s music everywhere, and someone’s singing ‘Hello, my darling!? Then you come to your senses and it’s quiet again.
The Unanswered Question (original version) (7:01): see above, but slightly more complex. I prefer the revised, but only because I heard it first…

For fans of chaos, puritanism, yankee doodling, American music, bombast, rhythmic complexity, and for those unfamiliar with Ives. He is America’s greatest composer yet. This CD is quite possibly the desert island Ives CD.

If you really enjoy the music on the disk, you should also check out Ives’ similar works “Three Places in New England” and his “2nd Orchestral Set – From Hanover Square North The Voice of the People Again Rose…” (or something like that).

‘Cujo, Sept. 2005

Present Music “Haunted America” [Innova]

cujo   9/23/2005   A Library, CD

Music commissioned and performed by Milwaukee’s Present Music chamber ensemble for their 2001-02 season. The Innova label was new to me, but I now dig it.
Jerome Kitzke – HAUNTED AMERICA – (18:22): This 9/11 response piece is the highlight of the disc. The composer leads the percussion & chamber ensemble reciting snippets of Allen Ginsberg: ‘Hey America – What Haunts You?’. This wild and potentially emotional ride has an arresting bells-and-whistles start and on the way you will hear strains of native american, pop, and klezmer music. I even heard strains of China and Bobby McFerrin. And it ends with the always welcome outburst of laughter.
Michael Torke – SONG OF ISAIAH – (13:45): Yuck. A woman interminably sings the Song of Isaiah over some indistinguishable circle-of-5ths and rhythmic structures.
Kimmo Hakola – CHAMBER CONCERTO – (31:55 total): Yet another example of Finland exporting fantastic new music. Here is a 5-part suite with fun-to-pronounce Italian subtitles. I give permission to play individual movements by themselves. Very dramatic overall work with moods ranging from the angry (Sono furioso!) to the lyric (Sono amoroso!).
— Cujo, Sept. 2005

Jeff Kaiser Ockodektet w/ Ojai Camerata, the Kaiser/Diaz-Infante Sextet “The Alchemical Mass / Suite Solutio” [pfMENTUM] (cd)

cujo   7/13/2005   CD, Jazz

Extremely talented L.A. improvisor/composer Jeff Kaiser wows with his large ensemble piece ‘The Alchemical Mass?. Based on an abbreviated text of a latin mass by 16th century alchemist heretic Nicholas Cibenensis, and recorded live in 2003 in Ventura. The Introitus starts off pointillistic & devoid of melody, turns a bit creepy when the chorus starts to sing, then goes all demented with a TomWaitsy percussion-laden tango. The Kyrie features some phrygian (certainly not yer regular diatonic) writing, this mode persists throughout the piece. The Collecta and Gloria features flugelhorn solo over crazed whispering (always a personal favorite). There is a mad tornado of horns and saxes in the Offertorium, and the chorus closes everything off nicely. The companion work, Suite Solutio, is for a much smaller ensemble (sextet) but at times (Part II) can really get loud. Part I is a rhythmically fluctuating loosely Pink Panther kind of groove, Part II is a hellishly noisy track featuring huge blocks of crashing metal and a screeching horn. Then most of the work focuses on duets – guitar vs flugelhorn in Part 3, trumpet and trombone in Part 4, bass and guitar in Part V. The whole work closes on a fantastically long gong strike. Guest starring Vinny Golia and Ernesto Diaz-Infante.
Cujo, July 2005

Philippe Besombes “Libra” [MIO Records] (cd)

cujo   7/13/2005   A Library, CD

In 2004 Israeli treasure-hunters MIO re-released this 1974 soundtrack to the otherwise silent and obscure French avant-film Libra. You may know Besombes from his later efforts with P’le and Hydravion or from his inclusion on Nurse With Wound’s infamous list of influences (I didn’t), but this album made when he was 24 is surely his crowning achievement. The 20 short tracks left me salivating for more of this helter-skelter mix of spaced-out physics lab experiments, nearly unintelligible vocal babblings, driving blues, ambient Delta sitar, and pieces verging on folk and prog rock. You will find something interesting on here. Preview your track b/c cold finishes and cold starts still track together. Beware the 4 somewhat inferior tracks not composed by Besombes. And if all this wasn’t enough, MIO includes a bonus track of a well-constructed 20-minute meditation by Besombes on prepared piano.
Cujo, July 2005

Magnus Lindberg “Aura / Engine” [DG 20/21] (cd)

cujo   7/5/2005   A Library

2 pieces from Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg, who grew up Finnish but thankfully ended up with a decidedly more continental and experimental bent.
Tr. 1-4. Aura (36:51): A large work for a late-Romantic-sized (i.e., big) orchestra whose emphasis is on tone and overall harmonic structure (most of which I can’t grasp). The opening 2 movements are long, and the final 2 are short. Listening in its entirety you can sense (but not really hear) a carefully-planned underlying structure. The 4 movements differ enough in color, but careful, they track together. Overall, the orchestration is incredibly incredibly dense, the mood is heavy but not negative, and there are many brilliant orchestral passages, many involving an international array of percussion. A concerto for orchestra, really.
Tr. 5. Engine (14:19): Incredible etude by Lindberg., showing off his more experimental nature. This piece was essentially composed by software written by Lindberg. This alone is a feat, but the success is that it doesn’t sound all that different from Aura!
Both pieces ably handled by Olly.

-Cujo, January 2005

Luigi Nono “Voices of Protest” [Mode Records] (cd)

cujo   7/5/2005   A Library

Once in a while a protest poem, this time from communist/anti-fascist resistance fighter/lawyer Luigi Nono (1924-1990), the leading avant-garde Italian of his time. He spent the 50s in Darmstadt experimenting with the avant-garde elite; the result was a lifelong interest in electronic and aleatoric music which he applied to highly political music. This CD is one major late 60s composition and two remarkable filler pieces. Factoid: Nono married Schoenberg’s daughter.
Tr 1. A floresta – jovem e cheja de vida (40:28): ‘The Forest Is Young and Full of Life?. This is the 2nd commercial recording of this sensory whopper for soprano, three narrators, clarinet, copper gongs, and tape. The text is a collage of fragments by guerrilla fighters, communist leaders, famously executed South Vietnamese, Berkeley students, factory workers, committees, etc. The overall work is a slightly bleak landscape of musical electronics, explored by the clarinet and soprano. Let’s go on a tour: slow beginning featuring tape, leads to serene passage starting around ~8:00 which lasts until a huge gong climax around ~12:20, text on tape leads until ~26:00 when the soprano sings brilliantly, things wind down with more great voice writing leading to a climax at ~33:00 then thing wind down from there. For an interesting comnparison, check out the original (Nono-overseen) 1979 DG recording featuring badass clarinetting by Bill Smith (SJPL has it).
Tr. 2. ‘Donde estas hermano? (5:19): A short chorus adapted in 1986 from an earlier opera, this time scored for 2 sopranos, a mezzo, a contralto. Otherworldly sounds emanate, but there is no electronic altering here, this is just brilliant singing by Voxnova.
Tr. 3. Djamila Boupach? (4:53): A solo soprano aria (from a larger work) to an anti-war poem by Pacheco. More brilliant singing by the Voxnova soloist, featuring huge pitch leaps and dynamic range.
-Cujo, Jan 2005

Sofia Gubaidulina “The Canticle of the Sun/Hommage to Marina Tsvetayeva” [Chandos] (cd)

cujo   7/5/2005   A Library

Two 1990s compositions by Russian-Tatar composer Sofia Gubaidulina

The Canticle of the Sun (36 minutes)
This 1997 work is based on St. Frances of Assisi’s nature-praising texts and features a curious lineup of 1 solo cellist, 3 percussionists, and one each of SATB. Things get to a slow but not uninteresting start with chimes and upward glissandos on the cello’s C-string heralding new verses, along with a theme which sounds like the beginning of the Back To The Future song. Pot comes to a boil at track 8 with full sound from only 7 performers, after which the cellist becomes percussionist (must be fun to watch live), ‘playing? the bass drum and a flexatone(!). The finale (track 12) is a heavenly meditation featuring wavering cello, triadic chorus, and my favorite, the celeste. For full effect, this should be played in its entirety.

Hommage – Marina Tsvetayeva
This is a bleak a capella choral work based on the poetry of Marina Tsvetayeva, who ended her miserable Russian life (made all the worse by WWII and exposed adulteries) in 1941. The gravitas weighs heavy, aided by well-timed silences, sung sighs, and some striking staggered entrances by various members of the Danish National Choir. This also should be played in its entirety, but try the 5th movement alone if you must save time.

-Cujo, January 2005

Constellations: Electro-Acoustic Music From Sweden [coll] – [Phono Suecia] (2-cd)

cujo   7/5/2005   A Library

Roll up your sleeves and let’s dig deep into the Swedish electronic music scene. This definitive eclectic coll is mostly what your ears would expect from such a title, except I found the offerings more dreamy and cinematic and less abrasive than expected. All the 5-15 minute compositions are of the ‘instruments and electronics? variety, check out the listings on the back for a combination that might suit your fancy. I starred 2, but leave it to you to find the other star-worthy ones (there are at least 3 more). The 1st track (1959) sounds a bit silver-apple-y, but by the late 80s where the rest of the tracks date from, the later generation seems to have found an individual voice.
Cujo, Jan 2005

The Gianluigi Trovesi Octet “Fugace” [ECM] (cd)

cujo   7/5/2005   CD, Jazz

Unique Italian octet led by reedman/composer Trovesi plays 3637 seconds of tightly-controlled, masterfully-performed, ultra-calm, improvisatory soundscape of clarinet sturdily buttressed by pairs of brass, drums, and low strings. Along the way, you will hear strains of swing, harpsichord interludes (the sipariettos), funk, Jimi, W.C. Handy, Satch, scratch, electronic doodling, Ennio, calypso, Italian folk song, Alfredo Casella. The liner notes would have you believe the success of this smoky flowing jazz journey is all due to Trovesi’s upbringing in some kind of Italian post-war musical melting pot, but I hear the success owing far more to the decade these 8 have spent together improvising. Smooth like a good gelato.

-Cujo, January 2005

Robert Ashley “Perfect Lives” [Lovely Music] (CD)

cujo   7/5/2005   A Library, CD

A little ditty bout Raoul and Buddy, two kids in the American Heartland, as epically conceived by underappreciated American media artist Robert Ashley. This post-ONCE, post-Mills 1978 TV opera was commissioned by The Kitchen and premiered in the U.K in 1984. Runs 3 hours in 7 acts on 3 audio CDs. What you can be assured of: a near-constant bed of warm electronic blanketing. Non-stop delirious piano playing by ‘Blue? Gene, often in a boogie-woogie style. Ashley’s non-stop dead-pan sing-song delivery of a novella (really, what else can it be called?) about love, supermarkets, bank robberies, music, nothing, bars, cars, and life in the midwest. This is phenomenal.

-Cujo Jan 2005

3-Word Review: Titanic American Gesamtskunstwerk

Kagel, Mauricio “Alexandre Tharaud” [aeon]

cujo   1/26/2005   A Library, CD

Indeed, Kagel’s humor is not the kind that makes you laugh. Pianist Tharaud & friends present 5 of the composer’s mid-career works. An underlying theme to these works is the re-presentation of “classical” ideas in a Darmstadtian vein (Beethoven, Liszt, & Chopin for the very discerning ear). Another theme would be general melancholical humor. “MM51” and “Rrrrr…” can also be found elsewhere in our library. The real gems are the ensemble piece “Ludwig Van”, an homage to Beethoven replete with whisperings, gurglings, and “Freude!”s, and “MM51”, a piece for piano & metronome which plays like The Tell-Tale Arhythmic Heart – replete with finishing maniacal laughter – be sure to play this track to the bitter end.

-Cujo in April 2004

Schumacher, Michael J. “Room Pieces” [Xi Records]

cujo   1/24/2005   A Library, CD

2 CDs’ worth of computer-controlled experimental noises with minimal organic sampling from NYC sound manipulator Michael Schumacher. Clear influences of La Monte Young, Robert Ashley, and Babbitt, not so clear philosophical influences of Cage (check out the line-up of pretentious liner notes, including some by “Blue” Gene Tyranny).
CD 1:
Room Piece XI (75:43): The 11th happening of his sound installation originally intended for a sound-proof room in his NYC gallery with 16-track full-surround sound. A quiet drone pervades. Random types of sounds/instruments interrupt at random sets of intervals based on a random assignment of the prime numbers 13, 17, 23, 29, 37, and 43. The interruptions can be extremely harsh and disturbing and sometimes they come into phase with each other for added pleasure.
CD 2:
Piece in 3 Parts (20:03): Sounds of regurgitated violin sampling, then sounds of regurgitated gong sampling, then back to sounds of violin.
Still (17:07): Quiet drone featuring some cello scrapings.
Untitled (18:13): Sine wave madness!! Loud and almost momentous, sounds unlike the rest of the offerings. For the easiest introduction to the music, start with this track.
Still (17:29): No sampling here, just straight computer clicks and clangs. Very sparse.
-Cujo in Jul 2004

Lutoslawski, Witold “Works for Orchestra, etc…” [EMI]

cujo   1/24/2005   A Library, CD

Fantastic 2-CD set of major and minor works from Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski (1913-1994, Vee-told Loo-toe-swov-ski). There’s the wicked and intense Preludes and Fugue for 13 strings (major work) for starters (play the Preludes by themselves if you have to, but not the Fugue by itself). Throw in his entire work for voice from the late 50s early 60s (the Michaux poemes, the 5 Songs for soprano, etc – minor works), and then the finish disc 2 with the awesome string quartet and the dazzling cello concerto. The concerto is the best work featuring cello since the Elgar concerto. This music is dark, very intense, and engaging. Witold practically defines ‘postwar?.
-Cujo in Nov 2004

Various – “Soloists Ensemble of the Bolshoi Theater Orchestra” [coll] – [Melodiya]

cujo   1/24/2005   A Library, CD

Pop quiz, hot shot: Name any Russian composer of the post-Shostakovich generation. KFJC gives you a small sampling of what happened. These 4 offerings are all written for the ‘Pierrot? ensemble popularized by Stravinsky: just 16ish different instruments.
Edison Denisov (dead 1996): SUN OF THE INCAS (20:04): 3 laments for soprano, each preceded by short energetic drum and bell-filled preludes. Exceedingly sad.
Alfred Schnittke (dead 2001): THREE MADRIGALS (7:44): Very subtle, unflashy Schnittke. Soprano sings modern German poetry in French, then German, then in English. Not as sad as the Denisov. Dag.
Sofia Gubaidulina (alive): CONCORDANZA (11:36): Sofia will likely emerge as 20th century’s greatest female composer. This is a rumbling and introspective instrumental.
Tigran Mansurian (alive): TOVEM (9:10): Armenian witchcraft. Some jazzy brass, much more upbeat.
-Cujo in Nov 2004

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