Monday, July 21, 2008

Sisyphus longing for the stone

Rhys Chatham - Guitar Trio is My Life!
Chatham's Guitar trio is a compelling piece of rock-meets composition - a one-note riff is established and embelleshed upon for 20 minutes over a rock drumbeat, building and complicating until it fills all the spaces. This 3CD set captures 10 of these performances, all seemingly similar in tone and intensity. At first adhering to my tendency toward song endurance tests I was determined to listen to all of them, but that is like Sisyphus longing for the stone when he should be enjoying the downtime.

James Blackshaw - Litany of Echoes

This disc bridges the rigor of Chatham's cheeky minimalist aggression and the new agey-er sides of the Takoma guitarists (John Fahey, Robbie Basho, young Leo Kottke) without falling into the traps of either direction. This album is lush and lovely, almost Hollywood swell at points, but ultimately smart for music so occassionaly breathless.

J.S. Bach - Complete Lute Suites, performed by Sharon Isbin
Um... the instant win Rhapsody has over Yahoo! Music which it is replacing is that Rhapsody has classical music up in its catalog. I don't really listen to as much classical as I did in my college years, where 20th century composers was nearly all I listened to for a while, but man, it is nice to have it at a click's reach.

Alexander Scriabin - Late Piano Pieces, performed by Paul Crossley
Like this. Ever since reading about his Mysterium, I've wanted to know more about Scriabin. The pieces here are dreams for piano, in that melodies twist and cavort under their own obscured logic, each connection from note to note makes perfect sense, obvious sense even, but the full twist of this river is determined by darker sources. This music might make perfect sense on cough syrup, perhaps some enterprising and hip Houston music student could craft a "chopped and screwed" Scriabin and open up that black hole of destruction he wanted to invoke with Mysterium at the foot of the Himalayas.

Morton Feldman - The Viola in My Life, parts I-IV

This seemed a fitting full-circle to Ryhs Chatham. Like most of Feldman's pieces, The Viola in My Life is long and unfathomably spare - small tight events happen in the distance: a cluster on the piano, a whinny from the strings, a sigh from the woodwinds, a feather rustling a cymbal somewhere out there in the gray-green fog.

Still though, Feldman's misty moor is a sentimental plane where one slowly pulls apart the machinations of love and remorse and the passing of time, holding each gear and belt up to the dim light for examination. I'm not sure if I know anything new after listening to Morton Feldman, but I feel like I know what I already did know a little better.

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