Notes and Editorial Reviews
NEW YORK LOVE SONGS
Jenny Q Chai (pn, sop)
ARPAVIVA 003 (40:49)
The Wonderful Widow of 18 Springs.
Marriage (Mile 58) Section F.
New York Love Songs
I’ll start with the second half of this ArpaViva CD featuring the work of ArpaViva’s creator, Yugoslavian émigré harpist/composer Victoria Jordanova. Her works here, titled
New York Love Songs
, have in common the fact that they are written for piano and sung by the pianist, in this instance Jenny Q Chai. Additional themes running throughout the cycle are erotic love and the repression that sometimes energizes it.
, for amplified piano and voice, for example, there is a mixture of rather ordinary, almost glib, chords and atonal percussion along with spoken phrases and sung passages. This introduces us to Jordanova’s Cage-influenced style, which discards all the fluff in favor of the deepest, secret chambers of human emotion. I hope it isn’t just my misinterpretation that the Bernini marble sculpture
The Ecstacy of Saint Teresa
, from which the lyrics take inspiration, seems to provide Jordanova with decidedly un-saintly fantasy material in which the delineation between the pious and the sexual are blurred.
is another example of Jordanova’s rigorous adherence to the core of things. Exegeted from the
, the piece is, as you would expect, considering its textual source, sensual, erotic, with glissandos that embrace a pop feel and acoustical tricks punctuating the unassuming accompaniment.
The evocative poem
Chinese Laundry Across the Street
is like an erotic bedtime story for adults. The whispers of words express the unconsummated longing of a woman picking up her lingerie from the drycleaner. It’s one of those single moments in time, poignant and ephemeral, a miniature drama in a snow globe. I am pleased to hear Jenny Q Chai sing in Chinese in Jordanova’s
based on lyrics from, appropriately enough, the Song Dynasty. The vocalises and sighs here are part of an almost anti-composed music, minimal and sleek.
The first half of the CD, as mentioned, seems to present some of the composers who have framed Jordanova’s view of Minimalism. John Cage’s
The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs
sounds as fresh today as it was iconoclastic in 1949. The piece, like many of Jordanova’s, is written for acoustic closed piano, characterized by knocks on the sounding board along with pure solo voice.
The selection from
reminds me of how musical Joyce’s prose is and how perfect a choice the text is for Cage’s purposes here.
Perhaps the most romantic of the selections is Charles Ives’s
(1942) for amplified piano and voice. This is a work of sublime stillness exemplifying immutability, transience, and fragility. Chords repeat against a single voice that is as pure as an altar boy’s.
Another clever choice of text is heard in Frederic Rzewski’s
Marriage (Mile 58) Section F from The Road
(1996). The composer uses a monologue from Tolstoy’s novella
The strangely humorous selection is accompanied by a minimal spoken voice.
This is an interesting assemblage of Minimal music both old and new, demonstrating the ties that bind and giving us a look (or a listen, really) into the future of new music.
FANFARE: David Wolman
Works on This Recording
The Road: Marriage (Mile 58) Section F by Frederic Rzewski
Jenny Q Chai (Piano),
Jenny Q Chai (Voice)
Written: 1996; United States of Ame
Length: 2 Minutes 24 Secs.
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