Tuesday, July 9, 2013


A couple of items from Sinfini Music who claim to be "cutting through classical". Well, they are certainly knocking it about. First of all, an interview with Anoushka Shankar, daughter of Ravi Shankar and a sitar virtuoso in her own right. She has a new album that the article raves about as follows:
Traces of You is a strikingly original project. This is a woman telling her story, but without dictating to the listener how it should be interpreted. Shankar’s starting point is the Ragas she learned from her father, but she has reduced each of these to four or five minutes in length. In their totality, though, these very different pieces present themselves as a stream of consciousness that makes them seem like one long, sustained classical Raga. Whether the listener’s background is in electronica, pop, Indian classical music or world music, what sets this music apart is the personal integrity of an exceptional aural storyteller.
Which adds up to what? Well, let's listen, shall we?

Oh, I get it, this is a kind of fusion like that created by Paco de Lucia, John McLaughlin and Al Di Meola, but with an Indian flavoring instead of a flamenco one:

The common elements are the flurries of quick notes, modal harmonies, percussive filler, and lack of any discernible theme.

Thanks, Anoushka, for not dictating to this listener how this should be interpreted. I choose to interpret it as boring fusion sludge.

And we have Sinfini to thank for alerting us to another questionable bit of music, this time it's Norman Lebrecht's Album of the Week. Kudos to Mr. Lebrecht for at least panning this mugging of Mozart:

It starts out well enough; just another performance of a Mozart piano concerto. But as soon as the soloist comes in (the pianist is Mr. Andres himself) we see that he has "deconstructed" the piano part with all sorts of dissonances. Mr. Andres must have read that remark by Prokofiev about Stravinsky's neo-classical style as being "Bach on the wrong notes" and didn't realize it was a joke. At least Stravinsky had a consistent treatment in all the parts while Mr. Andres just messes up the piano part.

Yet another item in Sinfini is a review of an album that is a tribute to Julian Bream on his 80th birthday. The guitarist, Stefano Grondona, records a variety of music all written for Julian Bream. Sounds like a wonderful project. But the review! It's the worst sample of purple prose I have read in quite a while:
Hearing the secretive symbolist Takemitsu, dedicated to achieving sound as intense as silence, merge perfectly into and out of rigorous sentimentalist Rodney Bennett, both composers played on a Bream guitar, filtered through Grondana’s solemn fluency, his grave discipline, producing whispery, courtly soundtracks to untold mystery, to a quiet quest for answers, is a strange, touching treat. Grondana begins his night journey with the nine vivid Britten reflections on the mystic power of Dowland’s reflections on the mysteries of sleep, capturing the disorientation with immense clarity, and the calmness with brilliant restraint.
Would anyone care to translate that into English? I think most of those pairings of disparate adjectives would be banned in Boston. "Brilliant restraint"?

Oh, please...

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