Notes and Editorial Reviews
If there now exists a Second New York School to follow on from the first formed by Cage and his colleagues in the 1950s, then its members would surely comprise Michael Gordon, David Lang and Julia Wolfe. This triumvirate has gone further than any in creating a heady polystylisiic mix combining elements of high and low, minimal and maximal, strict and improvised, global and local. Traces of both the polymetric language of totalism and the free-form eclecticism of Zorn may be heard in this music, allied with a post-Stravinskian style of rhythmic muscularity and high-velocity dissonance characteristic of maverick Dutch composer Louis Andriessen.
All of which leads on neatly to Gordon's latest release, a portrait opera of sorts,
drawn using texts taken from proto-expressionist painter Vincent van Gogh's letters to his brother Theo. Gordon's predilection for suspending sustained vocal lines above pulsing, often visceral loops and patterns is certainly reminiscent of the Dutch minimalist, while his emphasis on developing two- or three-part textures from single lines evokes Frederic Rzewski.
But the most striking feature of this dark, desolate and often disturbing work is its manifold use of repetition as a means of evoking the kind of madness which so plagued van Gogh's life Like the Dutch artist's fragile mental condition, Gordon's music often appears to be on the edge of chaos but never quite looses control. Indeed, compared with earlier works (such as the wonderfully insane Sunshine ofyour Love) Gordon treats this harrowing subject with more than a modicum of restraint. One is often reminded in the music of van Gogh's arresting description, set towards the end of the work, of "a vague figure fighting like the devil in the midst of the heat".
-- Gramophone [6/2008]
Works on This Recording
Van Gogh by Michael Gordon
Alarm Will Sound
Period: 20th Century
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