Friday, May 13, 2011

Music Challenge Day 2 - All New Stuff

Music Challenge Day 2 - All New Stuff

This challenge was intended to get listeners going on different things. In point of fact, the mandate was to "not listen to a single work you've heard before."

Now, I listen to music as part of my job. I do it when I'm doing still other parts of my job. And I'm passionate about music discovery. So I listen to a lot of new music.
But I normally sprinkle in favored composers and works, mix eras, genres, and styles, fold in some outside listening (a little punk, a little hip-hop, a little folk). With this project I vowed to listen only to works I had never heard for the entire day, and (since I also listen to lots of living composers) I tried to focus on historic or non-living composers that I had somehow missed.

I started out with some Taneyev String Quartets on new label Northern Flowers. What lovely work! I couldn't believe how much I had missed out on with Taneyev, especially the very sensitive viola and cello writing. Some people just totally ignore the lower voices in string quartets, making them fill out chords mechanically. Not the case here.
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Then I moved on to Morton Gould's Saint Lawrence Suite. Woefully, I'm a singer and former pretend-string player who always wanted to be a percussionist, so I listen to very little wind band music. But this work may have started a sea change in me. All the rich, bright timbre of the University of Kansas Wind Ensemble was put to good work here. There are some sweet bluesy, jazzy elements to the suite that play nicely with the quick, light, Copland-esque moments that occur from time to time. This is also the only original work for wind band ever nominated for a Grammy for composition.
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I also discovered M.K. ─îiurlionis for myself in this project. Among my other listening, this last stood out. Perhaps it was the opening, in dark Eastern European style writing that called to mind Borodin's quartets, or perhaps that the composer seemed mutable, even a tad volatile. This Lithuanian composer was also a painter, something I felt I could hear in the compositions before I saw the work. I listened to the String Quartet in C minor and the Theme and Variations, both of which could have tended toward the measly or graceless without the correct force of playing. I have to say, the Vilnius String Quartet brought it on that point.
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What did you listen to?

Pro musica,
Mo
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