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086: ‘Different Trains’, Steve Reich (Kronos Quartet)

SoTW takes a look at Minimalism and composer Steve Reich’s ‘Different Trains’, a three-movement piece for string quartet and tape (1988).
Reich uses recorded spoken phrases of his governess, a retired Pullman porter, and various Holocaust survivors interlaid with the astounding Kronos Quartet to contrast his childhood memories of train journeys between New York and California in 1939–1941 (he traveled between his separated parents) with the very different trains being used to transport contemporaneous European children to their deaths under Nazi rule.
This is difficult, challenging music, but is said to have “earned Reich a place among the great composers of the 20th century”.

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266: Vertical Voices, ‘The Cry and The Smile’

Tracking my circuitous, tenuously coherent musical route, my Streaming of Consciousness from the previous fortnight. What connects it all?
The human voice. The only instrument fashioned by God.

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081: Maria Schneider, ‘The Pretty Road’

Maria Schneider’s music has been called “evocative, majestic, magical, heart-stoppingly gorgeous.” It defies genre-categorization. In format, it’s standard Big Band, but the music exhibits a symphonic palette, broad and complex and rich and intriguing. Her compositions are often compared to those of Mahler and Copland. They’re ephemeral, transcendental and melodic, often simultaneously. Not impressionistic, but carefully thought out and planned and considered. Incorporating the vast, open, airy Minnesota landscape where she was raised. Thoroughly modern, thoroughly American, thoroughly personal. She’s even been called Nabokovian! A brainy romantic, passionate, an aural aviatrix.

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092: Béla Fleck, Edgar Meyer, Zakir Hussain, ‘Babar’ (“The Melody of Rhythm”)

Alchemy 101:
Take a jazz banjoist, a classical double-bassist, and a percussionist of traditional Indian music, toss in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, mix vigorously. Waddaya get? A ménage a trois of a centaur, a mermaid, and a Toyota Prius? Nope! “The Melody of Rhythm” is as natural as the petal of a daisy — unforced, convincing and absolutely lovely.

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253: Edgar Winter, ‘Rise to Fall’ (Indefensible Mixes)

In which Jeff reveals his deepest guilty-pleasure listening habits.

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250: Mose Allison, ‘Young Man’s Blues’

They’re dropping like flies — Mose Allison, Leon Russell, Leonard Cohen, Paul Kantner, teenagers dying of old age.
Talkin’ ‘bout my g-g-g-generation.
Carpe diem?
After my nap.

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019: Johnny Dyani, ‘Track #1′ (Shvarim Tru’ah)

An obscure South African free-jazz bassist recreating Ye Olde Ram’s Trumpet on that hard-bop classic, ‘Shvarim Tru’ah’.
It must prove something. But I’m not quite sure what.
G’mar chatima tova.

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030: The Bulgarian State Radio and Television Women’s Choir (Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares) – ‘Pilentze Pee’

Bulgarian folk music predates our European tradition!! It wasn’t affected by early polyphony; it remained duophonic long after the Europeans Renaissanced. The singers use throat resonance to hold a steady pitch for 5 minutes. It’s full of modal scales, dissonant harmonies (abundant second, seventh, and ninth intervals). And if you’ll give it a chance, you just might find that it really is quite enchanting.

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