Tuesday, August 21, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Lizards, Love and Khoom

The Lounge Lizards: Queen of All Ears. 1998. Strange & Beautiful Music: SB 0015.

John Lurie: composer, alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, vocals
Michael Blake: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet
Steven Bernstein: trumpet
David Tronzo: slide guitar
Evan Lurie: piano, organ
Jane Scarpantoni: cello
Erik Sanko: bass
Ben Perowsky: percussion
Calvin Weston: drums

With an irresistible layering of parts played by musicians from the New York "downtown" scene, this is one disc for scratching that long-standing itch for the old Knitting Factory sound that has since dissipated. It's the arrangements that stand out on this recording as the coloring, composition, attention to groove and humor shifts one's focus away from the individual contributions and toward the collective sound of the band. The "Queen" tracks mine a particularly alluring texture.

Johnny Cash: Love God Murder. 2000. Sony Music Entertainment Inc.: C3K 63809.

3-disc compilation produced by Johnny Cash.

What can anyone say about Johnny Cash that would do justice to his legendary voice and persona? Sixteen songs about love that never sink toward the sentimental. Sixteen songs about God that never sink toward evangelizing piety. And sixteen songs about the flaws that undo lives that never turns a blind eye to humanity and compassion. When 99% of all songs fail for reasons of bad poetry, bad arranging or bad motivation it's hard to ignore someone who so rarely missed the mark.

Giacinto Scelsi: 5 String Quartets/String Trio/Khoom. 2002. WDR/Salabert: MO 782156.

String Quartet no. 1 (1944) - performed by the Arditti String Quartet
Irvine Arditti: violin
Avid Alberman: violin
Levine Andrade: viola
Rohan de Saram: cello

String Trio (1958)
Irvine Arditti: violin
Levine Andrade: viola
Rohan de Saram: cello

String Quartet no. 2 (1961) - performed by the Arditti String Quartet

Khoom for soprano and 6 players (1962) - conducted by Aldo Brizzi
Michiko Hirayama: soprano
Frank Lloyd: horn
Maurizio Ben Omar: percussion
Arditti String Quartet

String Quartet no. 3 (1963) - performed by the Arditti String Quartet

String Quartet no. 4 (1964) - performed by the Arditti String Quartet

String Quartet no. 5 (1974/1985) - performed by the Arditti String Quartet

I am struck by the continuity of "voice" between Khoom and String Quartet no. 3. It's as if the wordless lament issued from lungs and larynx of soprano Michiko Hirayama transforms into an eerily similar gesture on the violin.

Sequenced in chronological order, one can hear Scelsi's consistency over this span of forty years even as his stylistic approach takes a dramatic turn toward an intense, meditative focus on exquisitely detailed singularity. One can hear the intuitively composed "modern" work of String Quartet No. 1 as the doorway through which an elaborate universe was discovered as the individuality of Scelsi's sound coalesced with astonishing aesthetic individuality. The consistency between 1944 and 1985 stems from the intuition that Scelsi drew upon with increasing trust over the years. The inclusion of String Trio and Khoom adds incredible texture to this listening experience that helps to augment the story of Scelsi's creative development conveyed by his string quartets.

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