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Kitty Brazelton: Ecclesiastes - A Modern Oratorio

Release Date: 10/26/2010 
Label:  Innova   Catalog #: 727  
Composer:  Kitty Brazelton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Time Remaining Band
Number of Discs: 1 
Length: 1 Hours 13 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BRAZELTON Ecclesiastes Time Remaining Band INNOVA 727 (73:27 &)

Kitty Brazelton (b.1951) has been involved in an enviably broad range of music throughout her career, receiving a doctorate from Columbia while performing with bands she organized in downtown New York (her profile is reminiscent of Eve Beglarian, if one wanted to make such comparisons). This refusal to be pinned down into any style or camp is very much evident in this release.

Read more /> Ecclesiastes is subtitled a “modern oratorio.” The “modern” has both to do with a contemporary take on the subject matter, and with the media involved, in particular the laptop technology. Brazelton takes a six-man band as the work’s performance core and then expands its palette with a soundscape of drones, concrète samples, and processing. The very first track sets the tone, when Brazelton’s filtered voice makes an impassioned incantation that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Björk album.

The piece was commissioned and presented as the score to a dance work, and it projects an essential theatricality. As is fitting for a piece not conceived primarily for new-music groupies, it has elements that will be familiar and attractive to the sort of audience that patronizes progressive art nowadays—laptop music; throat/overtone singing; modal, non-Western-sounding melodies; world music rhythms; progressive jazz improvisation; even a ripping techno movement. At the same time, one of the work’s strengths is that this variety doesn’t sound like a mishmash; I might not be able to identify a single compositional voice here, but simultaneously the work sounds holistically conceived. It has great energy, spirit, and a courage to take aesthetic leaps.

The virtues are also due in large part to the quality of the performance. The Time Remaining Band, formed for the project, shows mastery of a wide range of performance practices. Its members also are all excellent singers, and Brazelton shows off compositional chops when (often in the midst of more experimental expanses) she will suddenly have them lock into quite beautiful chorales, a bit like Bach or Pärt stumbling into a John Zorn concert.

So overall I enjoyed this a great deal. My only reservation is that I can’t help but feel that the piece’s origins as a multimedia work are still probably its best form of presentation. Brazelton has done a lot of serious research and thinking about the meaning of the relevant passages of Ecclesiastes (you can read a really extended essay about this, and all other aspects of the piece and its realization, on your computer via the pdf included as “enhanced content” on the disc), and this certainly deepens both the content and character of the piece. But it still feels a bit “occasional” to me. Not at all a reason for rejection; I only wish I’d be experiencing it via a DVD, either of the original dance or perhaps some new visual content developed specifically for the music.

For the record, the band consists of David Bryan, countertenor and mandolin; John Brauen, tenor and percussion; Keith Borden, baritone and percussion; Mark Lin, bass and percussion; Matt Goeke, cello and conductor; Alex Vittum, percussion; and the composer singing, conducting, and DJ-ing. A strong entry in the ever-expanding “between the cracks” category.

FANFARE: Robert Carl
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Works on This Recording

Ecclesiastes "A Modern Oratorio" by Kitty Brazelton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Time Remaining Band

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