Fifth House Ensemble & Baladino
Cedille Records/Baladino CD
Fifth House Ensemble’s second CD for Cedille, Nedudim (Hebrew for “wanderings”) employs material from a plethora of folk traditions: Appalachian American, blues, Greek, Balkan, Turkish, and Indian, to name only some of them. Fifth House enlists as their performance partners the versatile world music group Baladino. Composer Dan Visconti and Baladino member Thomas Moked Blum supply imaginative arrangements that juxtapose notated material for Fifth House and quasi-improvisatory guides for Baladino. In addition to standard Western instruments – horn, flute, clarinet, saxophone, piano, and strings – the listener is also greeted by didjeridu, duduk, oud, ney, and African percussion.
The combination of these two ensembles is a successful one, creating a fluidity of rhythmic interaction that many crossover albums with folk elements lack. Indeed, the coexistence of instruments East and West and pieces that hew closer to classical or folk traditions provides the CD with enjoyable variety. A star in the proceedings is the incredibly versatile vocalist Yael Badash, whose singing matches the fluency of the instrumental performances. Nedudim traverses a great deal of musical ground, but never strays.
Cedille Records CD 90000 157
The “M” word: minimalism: oft-quoted, sometimes maligned, often misunderstood, and seldom accepted as a self-descriptor by composers. We get into ever more thorny ground as we begin to contemplate “post-minimalism:” does it describe chronology, influence, or some kind of murky musical terrain? If we are to use the descriptor for chronology, even Philip Glass suggests that his pieces departed very early from minimalism. So what are listeners to do with a release such as Filament, on which there is a 17-minute long piece of process music (Two Pages by Glass) that clearly makes much out of comparatively little? Further, what do we call pieces by the younger generation of indie classical composers (another loaded term), clearly enamored with repetition, who make up the bulk of this disc? Perhaps it is better to avoid the style tags altogether and instead say that each of the pieces on Filament is composed by a creator fascinated with repetition, but each one in a different way.
Bryce Dessner channels the instrumentation and affect of murder ballads of the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries to create the rustic ostinatos of Murder Ballades. Written for a celebration of Philip Glass’s 75th birthday, Nico Muhly’s Doublespeak is designed to hearken back to the “obsessive repetition” of the 1970s, but it does so in a powerfully articulated fashion. Son Lux’s contributions, abetted by the vocals of Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond), are brief remixes of material from the album. Filament’s high point is a high octane and highly coordinated performance of Glass’s Two Pages. A single, propulsive line that can be played by any combination of instruments: the elements couldn’t be more minimalist in conception, but the execution is anything but.