20 July 2020

One fine Hallowe’en in the Nixon Era

Sour cream and chives on your baked potato?”
“Yes, ma’am, just like the President.”

— the late, great Philip Austin

I dreamt last night that fellow composer Luke Ottevanger and I were exchanging musical sketches using a pitch-world we jokingly called “Bentatonic.”

 More than a month ago I enjoyed the privilege of previewing the now-released (as of 17 July) double CD of a live improv event performed by the Mark Harvey Group, Peter H Bloom (woodwinds) Mark Harvey (brasswinds) Craig Ellis and Michael Standish (percussion) A Rite for All Souls.  the quartet “employed an array of Western and non-Western musical instruments of classical and traditional disciplines as well as toys and found objects” in an aural theatre piece performed in two acts with a brief intermission. Interspersed through the course of the musical improvisation are four recitations: Gary Snyder’s Spel Against Demons (1970), Wm Butler Yeats’s The Second Coming (1919), Jack Spicer’s A Book of Music (1961) and Craig Ellis’s Napalm Rice Paper (1970)

A marvellously executed Service of Shadows, this was a once-in-a-lifetime, an extraordinary event, whereof this compact disc is a rich and enjoyable listen:  the colors, the unflagging verve, the protean invention, the joyful anarchy which nevertheless subsumes into a centripetal organic whole.  As a musical endeavor/result I find it thoroughly admirable. One aspect which probably defies either analysis or explanation:  When I listened the very first time, and the recitation of Spel Against Demons began . . . in the back of my mind there arose the (ultimately unfounded) doubt that the recitation elements might prove an obstacle to repeat listening. Not a jot, not a jot:  I do not know how they managed it (I have tried a few times over the years to include such a textual element, and have later generally cringed at the recollection) the whole feels like a seamless fabric.  My hat’s off, gentlemen: Genius!


P.H.Bloom said...

Thanks, Karl for your insightful, deeply considered and beautifully articulated observations concerning the recent release of our 2 CD project A Rite for All Souls. Such an appreciation from a musician of your wisdom, experience, and integrity is rewarding indeed.

Mark Harvey said...

I heartily echo my colleague Peter in this. Many thanks for the insightful appreciation and deep listening. So wonderful to have such listeners for our creative expression. ---Mark Harvey

Rebecca DeLamotte said...

Karl, It's wonderful to read your eloquent appreciation of A Rite for All Souls. It is gratifying to have such high praise from someone like you with a catalogue of impressive compositions and a distinguished musical career. Many thanks from Americas Musicworks and The Mark Harvey Group.