Friday, August 20, 2010

Living Music

When most people think of classical music they think of the tried and true standbys of opera and orchestra—Mozart, Rachmaninoff, Verdi, Debussy, and so on.
You know, the dead white guys.
But when you love classical music like we do, you know that we also need to look forward in order to keep it growing and vital.
Today I want to briefly look at a few living composers who continue to change the face of art music by pushing boundaries, blending uncommon elements, or just quietly filling the world with the beautiful.

David Lang (b. 1957)
I have a slight obsession with the work of Bang On A Can co-founder David Lang. I’m deep in score study on his Pulitzer Prize-winning Little Match Girl Passion for SATB soli and percussion. Lang’s work is known to be quite easy on the ear-- especially as far as postminimalist composers go—but it is in truth mathematically conceived, heavily structured, and driven by fidelity to meter. Pieces like his orchestral work Pierced demonstrate the surprisingly accessible result of this percussionist’s metrical attention.
Lang also pushes the boundaries of art music by bringing in popular references. From Jimi Hendrix (Are You Experienced?) to reworking the Velvet Underground tune “Heroin” into an 11-minute, lush motivic meditation for voice and cello.

Found it on the NML:
- Pierced / 8.559615 / orch
- Heroin / 8.559615 / chamber
- Are you Experienced? / CHAN9363 / orch
- Memory Pieces / INNOVA734 / solo piano

Hilary Tann ( b. 1947)
Tann is a Welsh-born composer now living and working in the U.S. Her compositional style is often described as being reflective of her environmental background in Wales: lyrical, unvarnished, spare. The lyricism in her works, however, is at little risk for mawkishness by virtue of the composer’s astute attention to texture and harmony.
The Moor, an a cappella duet for soprano and mezzo-soprano, pits two voices, two textures, two rhythmic functions, against one another and allows them to rub and pass one another like feet on a bare floor. Though Tann’s Welsh heritage informs much of her output, she is known to draw inspiration from yet another culture noted for appreciation of simplicity. After cultivating a musicological interest for some time, Tann took a short teaching residence in the Kansai region of Japan and pursued study of the shakuhachi, or Japanese bamboo flute, which appears in several of her works.

Found it on the NML:
- Llef / PH05019 / chamber
- The Cresset Stone / PH05019 / chamber
- Shakkei / NSR1048 / orch

Osvaldo Golijov (b. 1960)
Born in Argentina to Eastern-European Jewish parents, Osvaldo Golijov spent his early life surrounded by tango, klezmer, Jewish liturgical, and classical chamber music. From this uncommon musical soup came a composer with a singular voice and a broad compositional scope.
Golijov’s music can swing between Jewish and Latin American cultures with astonishing speed, though most of his pieces have a prevailing cultural language. His work La Pasion Segun San Marcos (St. Mark Passion) is a massive bombshell of a piece, turning the genre dominated by Bach on its ear with blaring brass, pulsating percussion, and Spanish text. Other pieces, such as klezmer-influenced works Yiddishbbuk and Rocketeyka, have a distinctly Jewish tone. Still others, like Mariel for cello and marimba and much of his vocal work recorded by Dawn Upshaw, simply showcase a composer with an acutely advanced harmonic language.

Found it on the NML:
- La Pasion Segun San Marcos / CD98.404 / oratorio
- Yiddishbbuk / DSL-92108 / chamber
- Tenebrae / ORC100012 / chamber

Pro musica,


1 comment:

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