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Volume 28 Issue 2 | November 1 - December 13, 2022

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Available now for your online "flip-through" reading pleasure, The WholeNote Volume 28 no.2. For Openers, my uncle had a barn; then: Trichy Sankaran at 80; the return of the professional chamber choir; what makes music theatre more than just theatre; how to fit three violin concerti into one concert; and more.

Rounding out the disc,

Rounding out the disc, Aaron Jay Myers’ Strabimus and Richard Belcastro’s Nepetalactone take up the Zappa-ista torch. The latter title is the psychoactive ingredient in catnip. Fun stuff, well played. Max Christie Shawn Crouch – Chaos Theory Various Artists Acis APL56620 ( ! Hats off to Shawn Crouch. The tracks on his recent release, Chaos Theory, enchant the ear and engage the mind. Liner notes sometimes muddy the waters, but these (apparently written by Crouch himself) are brief and informative. He’s fond of circles, canons, variations, and games and puzzles too. Get right to listening, and give it a twiceover before coming to any conclusions. There are brilliant performances on each track, and there’s a bit of everything in the variety. My favourite is probably the easiest to get inside of: 95 South, a woodwind trio that covers the U.S. Eastern Seaboard in three large leaps. Lake Road; Dublin, NH recalls the scene of a music festival he attended in his youth. 74th and Third; New York, NY must mean he lived in Manhattan for some of his early adulthood. It varies from frenetic to meditative. Bay Drive; Miami Beach, FL is the finale of the piece and the place where parenthood overtakes other concerns. Dedicated to his son, it stands in sharp and welcome contrast to the more angular writing elsewhere. Not that there’s any problem with the buzzing zigzags of the other pieces on the disc. A lengthy and cerebrally conceived solo sonata for cello is convincingly rendered by Craig Hultgren. A pictogram in the liner notes, probably Crouch’s own work, helps explain the tonic gravitational energy that propels Orbital Variations. This one needs more time to tell its story. I look forward to hearing it again. It’s so good to hear music that explores new sonic worldscapes while remaining idiomatic, such that the instrumentalist makes use of their strongest technical ability bringing the work to life. Crouch is old school in that regard, proving that solid compositional technique still makes for the most listenable avant-garde music. Max Christie Ivanovs – Symphonies Nos. 17 & 18 Latvian National Symphony Orchestra; Guntis Kuzma LMIC SKANI 141 ( ! In the March-April 2022 WholeNote, I described Jānis Ivanovs’ Symphonies Nos.15 and 16 as “filled with dark sonorities, propulsive energy and clamorous dissonances,” qualities that reappeared, though less explosively, in his next two symphonies. The Moderato. Allegro of Ivanovs’ 32-minute Symphony No.17 in C Major (1976) begins slowly, with sombre, portentous music leading to tormented struggle and anguished outbursts, in their wake a haunting, “surviving” solo clarinet. The Allegro turns mysterious, its hollow, blackand-gold sonorities recalling Sibelius’ enigmatic Fourth. The Adagio suggests, to me, an incense-heavy church service, building to a hymn-like climax, followed by a muted recessional. The closing Allegro moderato seems to be marching off to yet another battle, but this time Ivanovs eschewed further violence, the symphony ending in peaceful serenity. The 35-minute Symphony No.18 in E Minor (1977) opens with the Moderato. Tranquillo referencing the first bars of Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No.2, also in E Minor. Unsurprisingly, the Tranquillo is soon negated by sinister turbulence, foreboding reinforced in the restless Allegro. Ivanovs, when interviewed about this work, referred to “the young men” who fought in World War II. An extended elegy for those “young men,” Andante. Tenebroso, moves from gloom to nobility, pride and reverence. The martial anthems of the Allegro moderato end the symphony in a burst of patriotic fervour. Conductor Guntis Kuzma and the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra brilliantly convey the dramatic and emotional extremes of their countryman’s extremely dramatic, emotion-laden music. Michaal Schulman MoonStrike – Jennifer Higdon; Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate; Pierre Jalbert Apollo Chamber Players Azica ACD-71352 (apollochamberplayers. org/media) ! This CD presents three recent works for string quartet commissioned and enthusiastically performed by the Houstonbased Apollo Chamber Players. Jennifer Higdon says she grew up “in the shadow of the Great Smoky Mountains,” the setting of her opera Cold Mountain. Music from the opera appears in her 16-minute In the Shadow of the Mountain (2020), both works reflecting, she writes, “The struggles of survival in Appalachia, the majesty of its natural features and the sonorities of the mountains’ music.” In affecting American-pastoral style, it evoked for me a day’s passage – uncertain dawn leading to resolute, animated engagement with the day’s demands, midday rest and reflection, resumption of busily rhythmic work, ending serenely with the coming of night and sleep. Chickasaw composer Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate’s 18-minute MoonStrike (2019) commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Chickasaw astronaut John Herrington engagingly narrates three Indigenous myths about the moon; combined with picturepainting music drawing from traditional songs, this is a winning contribution to the children’s concert repertoire. New Hampshire-born Pierre Jalbert drew upon three folk songs of his French-Canadian ancestors for his three-movement, 16-minute L’esprit du Nord (2019). It begins with energized variations on Chanson de Lisette. The slow Cantique includes Les Pélerins and what Jalbert calls “a Passion song,” plus snippets from a 1940s field recording of a chanting woman. The vigorous Fiddle Dance, “inspired,” writes Jalbert, “by the French- Canadian fiddling tradition,” cheerfully ends the work and the CD. Michael Schulman Wadada Leo Smith – String Quartets 1-12 RedKoral Quartet TUM Records TUM BOX 005 ( ! The composer and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith is – together with Anthony Braxton, Muhal Richard Abrams, George Lewis, Roscoe Mitchell and others of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) – a composer in the revolutionary vein of Igor Stravinsky. He (Smith) is one of the mighty propellers of the musical continuum. So what does that have to with this critique? Let’s pretend we are watching an excerpt from Wolf Koenig’s 1965 documentary and we are now at the part where Koenig asks Stravinsky: “Who created music?” Restless with excitement Stravinsky, says: “God did.” Then he adds: “I think … Even not think… I am sure… with the creation there was just a BIG sound of drum and cymbals… and that the creation of music.” Spinning on that vibrant, rhythmic axis of creation is the continuum of music, 60 | November 1 - December 13, 2022

I believe that somewhere in their hearts, more than anyone else, Wadada Leo Smith appears to have somehow been privy to that exact moment of Creation. This is why his music has its origins in the Ankh (the Egyptian symbol of Life), the root of Smith’s conception – his Ankhrasmation. It is out of this singular taproot that Smith’s music swirls in an elegant ellipsis, in the musical continuum. Indeed Smith’s music seems to say that the tradition (that propels this continuum) is a wonderful reality, but not understanding that the inner dynamic of tradition is always to innovate, is a prison. Since his first acknowledged works on TUM Records, A Love Sonnet for Billie Holiday, The Chicago Symphonies and, now the epic collection – his String Quartets Nos.1-12 in this lavishly produced (even by TUM standards) set, Smith has once again chiselled his uniquely beautiful, but defiantly provocative, body of work from out of the bedrock of what square-eyed distributors like to call the Jazz and the European Classical traditions. But while that might imply a pastiche of archetypal Black American-and-Western European models, such as symphonies, sonnets and string quartets, instead even while using the European terminology almost sardonically, (on The Chicago Symphonies) and certainly on these string quartets, Smith forces his listeners to reconsider what tradition really is. In String Quartets Nos.1-12, Smith positions himself in creative conflict with age-old protocols about how string quartets “ought” to work. By actively throwing overboard melodic, structural and harmonic hooks that have been expressively blunted through overuse, he builds from what might – or might not – be left. Smith, as both composer and performer, shows himself to be instinctively radical. The irresistible force of his work pulls in its wake with the RedKoral Quartet, harpist Alison Björkedal (String Quartet No 4), fellow Pulitzer Prize-winning pianist Anthony Davis (String Quartet No.6), percussionist Lynn Vartan (String Quartet No.6), guitarist Stuart Fox (String Quartet No.7) and Thomas Buckner (voice on String Quartet No.8). Together, the performers find themselves puréeing classical music’s sublime melodic and harmonic gestures into motor rhythms, volatile white noise and the most compelling absurdist theatrics as they wrench their instruments apart and journey through the musical debris. The music elevates the spirit of famous black men (Ulysses Simpson Kay, Thomas Jefferson Anderson, Jr., Hale Smith and George Theophilus Walker in String Quartet No 1, Haki R. Madhubuti in String Quartet No 5, Indigenous Peruvian heroes in String Quartet No. 7, Ma Rainey and Marion Anderson in String Quartet No.9, Louis Armstrong in String Quartet No.11… and so on. In this music, definitions of beauty – Smith’s Black American definitions of beauty – are central to his artistic credo in these iconic works. But the composer – with Ankhrasmation gestures of thought and musical action – argues that his music and the artists performing it must make the distinction between overly perfumed, audience-ingratiating beauty typical of commercial music – which he regards as disturbingly manipulative – and “authentic” beauty, as naturally evocative as God, the Master Creator intended it to be. This landmark 7-CD release marks the conclusion of a celebration of the 80th anniversary of Wadada Leo Smith’s birth. The collection lands smack dab onto the earth’s musical map as a proverbial masterpiece of modernist music. Smith shepherds the crack musicians of the RedKoral Quartet and celebrated guests through an epic sojourn of his uncompromising soundworld. If the sounds that Smith hears in his inner ear move off the radar of conventional instrumental timbre, the RedKoral, who have worked extensively with him over the past decade, and other musicians unerringly zone into his musical intentions, realizing his ideas to perfection. Raul da Gama All Roads Anthony Cheung New Focus Recordings FCR263 ( ! To read, or not to read (the booklet notes to a recording) before listening to its music; that is usually the first question that pops into a critic’s head. Apologies need be made, I suppose, to Shakespeare whose beauteous iambic pentameter has been unabashedly appropriated by composer Anthony Cheung for All Roads, an album of rather extraordinary program music. There are numerous rewards in store for anyone who delights in following lines of pure musical thought as evinced by the wondrous repertoire proffered by Cheung. Nothing is gratuitous or extraneous, nor can the musical character ever be taken for granted. This is true when you plunge deeply into the song All Roads. Cheung creates the apogee of the album right out of the gates as he inhabits (sort of) Billy Strayhorn’s melancholy and the thinly disguised autobiographical character from Lush Life. Cheung’s anti-hero also staggers elegantly along a similar road which Strayhorn’s protagonist once took as he moped his way home. Pianist Gilles Vonsattel traces the wobbly route home with elliptical, arpeggiated Ellingtonian runs as a sky-dome darkens with the strings of the Escher Quartet. Elective Memory and Character Studies are exquisite essays with Cheung’s pianism and Miranda Cuckson’s sinuous violin lines with subtle variations and nuanced inflection. Meanwhile on the enlightened finale, All thorn, but cousin to your rose, lofty theatrics by Paulina Swierczek (soprano) and Jacob Greenberg (piano) bring Vladimir Nabokov and Alexander Pushkin to life again. Raul da Gama Red Marina Hasselberg Redshift Records ( ! Marina Hasselberg is a Portuguese-born, Vancouver-resident cellist comfortable in Baroque music, contemporary composed music and free improvisation, working in a range that includes Vancouver New Music, Early Music Vancouver, collaborations with other contemporary improvisers like Peggy Lee and Okkyung Lee and gig work with Mariah Carey. Red is her full-length debut, presenting some essential facets of her musical personality, both as soloist and in improvisatory groups. Red opens with an immediate declaration of independence, Hasselberg spanning centuries as she performs Gabrielli’s Ricercar Primo accompanied by improvising electronic musician Giorgio Magnanensi; they then follow that with S6, a free improvisation. Where the Sand Is Hot will suggest a similarly broad time span. Guitarist Aram Bajakian and drummer Kenton Loewen join in a modal improvisation with Hasselberg plucking intense, shifting, rhythmic patterns that suggest the guembri, a bass lute played for centuries by the Gnawa people of Morocco. That sometimes playful ability to span genre and time is no deterrent to Hasselberg’s focus. That’s evident in the disc’s most concentrated moment: composer Linda Catlin Smith’s Ricercar, which develops the tone and intensity evident in the earlier Gabrielli in a sustained work. There’s further evidence of the emotional depth of Hasselberg’s playing in the concluding Things Fall Apart, Craig Aalders’ composition for cello and tape. Along the way, Hasselberg finds further opportunities to improvise with Magnanensi, Bajakian, Loewen and violinist Jesse Zubot, in this vivid introduction to a musician as skilful as she is adventurous. Stuart Broomer November 1 - December 13, 2022 | 61

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