Wednesday, February 17, 2010

David Simons and the Transformation of Sound Worlds

Composer David Simons disregards the borders between modern concert music and DIY ethnic music and he does it with a flair. This second album for Tzadik, Fung Sha Noon, shows this tendency admirably. Essentially there are four contrasting pieces on the program. "Odentity" takes Harry Partch's instruments and composes something new for them. Not surprisingly, the ghost of Partch hovers over the proceedings and the sound of the music reflects this. It is quite fascinating to hear this Partch/not Partch music and it shows you that Partch's ensemble of instruments has plenty of life left in it for those who feel the inspiration.

"Uncle Venus" follows with a strings plus gamelan lineup and an attractive ambiance that makes as much use of the space between sounds as the sounds themselves.

The two part "Music for Theremin and Gamelan" takes the timeless qualities of gamelan music and stretches them, modernizes them to suit Simons' concept. The theremin gives the ensemble an eerie lead voice and the violin-viola soundblock effectively provides a third color for the ensemble. It's all an indication of how Simons has internalized musical traditions and made them over to the music in his head.

For the finale, David Simons performs a solo piece for an array of percussion instruments, including the found onject of everyday life: cans, bottles and such.

This may not become a barn-storming blockbuster out there in musical-commerce-land. What it is is rather remarkable and thoroughly captivating. There's nothing of the tentative experiment in all this. This is fully formed David Simons music.

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