Yom Kippur, part 2

October 12, 2016 at 10:30 am

I’m ending this year’s Jewish High Holy Days with a meditative, minimalist work from a unique source.

John Zorn is … interesting. He might be the most eclectic musician ever. On one hand, he writes instrumental metal. And, he has a sense of humor, as can be seen by his song and album titles, which include Lovecraftian Lore and Jewish puns. He also wrote film scores, plays jazz, and composes concert music.

Kol Niedre is the declaration of Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. Yesterday’s piece used this traditional Jewish melody as well, but today’s clear texture makes it much easier to hear. A low and high pitch E is sustained for practically the entire piece, breaking only in the middle for a brief hymn. The effect is timeless and mystical, simple yet profound.


It needs … more Wood Block!

May 9, 2016 at 10:30 am

“You know how it is when someone asks you to ride in a terrific sports car, and then you wish you hadn’t?”

That’s how American composer John Adams describes his piece, “Short Ride in a Fast Machine“. Of note here is the wood block part – it plays a steady beat, like a metronome, in time with the orchestra, but not always on the same strong beat as the other instruments. Every once in a while, it skips a half-beat.



Einstein on the beach

March 14, 2016 at 10:30 am

1, 2, 3, 4,
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Happy birthday Albert Einstein! To honor you, how about we listen to a 5-hour opera with no plot and no intermissions?

Minimalist composer Philip Glass‘ 1976 opera, Einstein on the Beach indeed doesn’t have an actual plot, but instead presents a repetitive music with counting numbers and repeated spoken phrases. You could say that it musically presents the inner clockwork of the mind of a genius – pondering and calculating things that most people can’t even begin to understand.

Having played a limited number of minimalist pieces myself, I can say that this opera requires the very best musicians. The concentration of mind and strength of muscle required is enough to give most players some PTSD.