Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Difficult Listening Hour, Part Three
I got a packet of CDs from Musicweb International for review not terribly long ago, but haven't really been in the state of mind to give proper attention to them, though I found them all intriguing. It was this morning, though, that put me into gear, when my editor sent me an email asking for a review on a CD that I'd been holding on to since, oh, um, April. I sat down and looked at the notes I'd written during a casual listen. I put the disc on and listened more. And in true Davo style, once I got going on the first review, another wasn't too hard to start right in on. Currently on the playlist is a trio of feature discs from Musiques Suisses, each focusing on either a specific composer, a performer, or an ensemble. The first in the set is a disc of the compositions of Mela Meierhans, a Swiss composer born in 1961, the second is a program of works performed by a violinist I'd never heard of until this point, a certain Hansheinz Schneeberger. Upon further research, this man performed the world premiere of Bartok's first Violin Concerto and all but two of the works on this disc are dedicated to him by the composers. The oldest composition on this disc was finished in 1960, and three others were finished in 2000 or more recently than that. The parakeet likes this disc not at all. Not at all. It's been harder than I thought to write impressions on the works and performances of these pieces while my parakeet in the next room is in a non-stop AACK-fit, as if to say "makeitstopmakeitstopmakeitstop." Parakeets, therefore, should not be consulted when looking for a good contemporary disc of recordings for solo violin. The third disc focuses on the performances of a group called aequatour (with the first two letters merged). I do like that their name is a two-way pun, from "Equator" to a sort of multilingual English/French phrase meaning "a quartet." They make a point of playing works that are brand-spankin'-new, and I've not heard of any of the composers on that disc. To up the ante, all the works here are for soprano and quartet. I've listened to parts of this disc in the car, and let me tell you, Moonbat the parakeet will not be at all amused.
But my big discovery has been the re-release of BANG! by the Hafler Trio, which is an amazingly strange collection of sound collages that have not the slightest resemblance to a pop song or music in general. The tracks are heavily weighted toward found recordings such as news broadcasts and machine noise that have been treated and looped to fit the demands of the group in these often rather short pieces. The closest analogue would be the wonderful tracks that Talking Heads singer David Byrne and all-round genius Brian Eno came up with for the amazing 1980 album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, which is a disc that should certainly be in any collection. The Hafler Trio are less concerned about making their pieces fit into a pop music mold, resulting in some often rather disorienting tracks filled with voices. For example, one track is made up of a multitracked newscaster, giving political news, a phrase gradually makes itself known over the stretch of the piece that says "All Largely Propaganda." It's a disc well worth looking into.
--picture adapted from Brian Griffin's Video Only When I Lose Myself