Thursday, January 28, 2010

According to composer Bright Sheng, "the first part of The Stream Flows (1990) is based on a famous Chinese folk song from the southern part of China. The freshness and richness of the tune deeply touched me when I first heard it. Since then I have used it as basic material in several of my works. Here I hope that the resemblance of the timbre and the tone quality of a female folk singer is evoked by the solo violin. The second part is a fast country dance based on a three-note motive". Watch violinist Lynn Chang and dancer Xiao Lin Fan's performance of The Stream Flows . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

In Glyn Pursglove's (MusicWeb International) review of Albany Record's Pure Colors (Albany 785), a collection of works by American composer Judith Lang Zaimont, Pursglove writes, "To describe Judith Lang Zaimont as an academic composer is fair and accurate, provided that one intends the epithet to function simply as a means of pointing to the fact that she has been employed in academia throughout most of her working life. It would be quite wrong, however, to use the phrase "academic composer" if, by its use, one intended any of its pejorative associations. There is nothing dry or pedantic about Zaimont's work; there is no sense that her compositions are technical exercises or that they exist merely for teaching purposes or as demonstrations of one or another theoretical concept. In fact her music . . . is various and undogmatic, inventive and readily approachable, even if it also reveals her extensive technical knowledge. This is a rewarding fifty-five minutes’ worth of music varied in instrumentation and idiom . . . [and] consistently inventive". Check out the album at Pytheas . . . our current FEATURED RECORDING.

"Art and propaganda meet to powerful effect in the 1936 film documentary The Plow That Broke the Plains. Written and directed by Pare Lorentz, it was made (in black & white) by the U.S. government and clearly intended to promote President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, a series of initiatives designed to help the country recover from the Great Depression. Yet that fact detracts not at all from the film's artistry, as the combination of Lorentz's visuals and words and composer Virgil Thomson's music is often quite genuinely transcendent" (Sam Graham/ Watch the film, in its entirety . . . this week's PYTHEAS SIGHTING.

Olivier Messiaen's six piano miniatures Petites esquisses d'oiseaux (Little Sketches of Birds) from 1985 are magnificently honed sketches that are the quintessence of his particular compositional style. In the words of Messiaen, "birds are probably the greatest musicians that exist in the musical hierarchy of our planet". Hear a performance by pianist Nanae Green of La grive musicienne (The Song Thrush), the fourth of the Petites esquisses d'oiseaux . . . FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Explore, Listen and Enjoy!
Vinny Fuerst
Pytheas Center for Contemporary Music

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