Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The New Religious

I recently* received two review CDs that are modern takes on religion. First, Phil Kline's John the Revelator. This Mass in both English and Latin is performed by the vocal group Lionheart and the string quartet Ethel. Some of the movements sound very traditional, chant in polyphony or monophony such as the opening "Northport", and some are very modern, with pop-tinged beats, minimalist ostinatos in "The Man Who Knows Misery", crunchy dissonances like "The Snow Fell", explorations of George Crumb-like timbres in "Dark Was the Night" or jazzy extended harmonies in "The Unnamable" and "Sanctus". I'm ashamed to admit that one section of "The Unnamable" sounds to me like the Oompa Loompas singing in the newer Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie. The male voices in octaves, with mid-Eastern pop accompaniment, just reminds me of one of the musical productions with little red men. This is a fairly eclectic work, like a less-extreme version of Golijov. I think Kline strikes a good balance of contemporary and contemplative, and the performances are great.

The second CD is D'Arc: Woman on Fire, a music theater piece by Jay Cloidt and Amanda Moody. Based on the life of martyred Joan of Arc, this is much more like the brashness of Golijov's Ayre cycle, with 14th century hymns sitting next to electronica, indy pop sounds, solo cello (featuring ex-Kronos Quartet member Joan Jeanrenaud), and lots of recorded sounds mixed in. The vocals by Amanday Moody are more pop-ish than Dawn Upshaw's performance in Ayre, raw and focused more on the drama than the beauty of sound. The whole D'Arc recording production seems to lack some aural depth, making it feel a little amateurish despite the interesting compositions and good performances. The religious music isn't as spiritually intense or authentic as Kline's work, but still interesting.

*Recently by my standards, rather long ago for the Kline CD by blogging standards.


shoreacres said...

Good evening ~

I'm currently working on a series of pieces for my own blog based on my recent trip to Clarksdale, MS for the Juke Joint Festival. Looking for some blues lyrics, I found your 2005 post about what it takes to sing the blues, and have been laughing in delighted recognition. Kudos to your Dad for passing it along.

I'll no doubt quote from it for my current piece, with a link back and attribution, of course.

I've done a bit of browsing, too, and since I enjoy reading about things that are totally foreign to me, I'll certainly be back. Apart from the information, I enjoy your writing style. And you have some links I'm eager to explore - so many blogs, so little time.

Thanks for a post that helped me focus my thoughts a bit - and gave me a smile!

Scott said...

Shoreacres, Thanks for the comment, and good luck with your blog! I love Annie Dillard, and will be reading your posts about her.