27 April 2011

Three whole albums, a little on the somber side, this Wednesday from 8-11am CT on 101.5 in Winnipeg and http://www.umfm.com in the stream.

Set #1 - 8:00am - 9:00am

1. The Fall of Constantinople
Alexander Lingas - conductor, Cappella Romana
Cappella Romana, CR402-CD
72:12
(The Latin West and the Greek East were concurrent musical traditions that rubbed together at moments of crisis.)

Set #2 - 9:00am - 10:00am

2. Joseph Haydn: The Seven Last Words of Christ (1796)
Helmuth Rilling - conductor, Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart, Bach-Collegium Stuttgart
Hänssler Classic, CD 98.977
55:13
("TGIF" is not one of them. Seven Adagios. A piece like the Haydn should make you reflect (or at least notice) the nature of repetition in music on the micro and macro levels. Not only does one not mind the repetition, but the mind seems to expect and/or want the repetition to somehow complete the musical balance. That echo is Speyer Cathedral.)

Set #3 - 10:00am - 11:00am

3. Passione e morte: Le musiche della Settimana Santa a Ruvo di Puglia (rec. 1993)
Michele Di Puppo - conductor, Orchestra di fiati Ruvomusica
Ruvomusica, RMCD 001
76'
(Eight slow funerial marches for wind orchestra composed for Holy Week by Antonio and Alessandro Amenduni. I have always maintained that Winnipeg needs a municipal wind orchestra on the city payroll.)

Where to buy CDs featured on today's show:
The Fall of Constantinople - CD Universe
The Seven Last Words of Jesus Christ - Amazon
Passione e morte: Le musiche della Settimana Santa a Ruvo di Puglia - Amazon

20 April 2011


In the finale of George Pal's 1953 motion picture adaptation of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds, the Martians set their heat ray on Los Angeles. Landmarks erupt in flames, panicked crowds stampede everywhere, and in the churches huddled masses pray against the inevitable disintegration.

Now transport yourself to Constantinople, "Tsargrad", capital of the Byzantine Empire, spring 1453. The armies of the Ottoman sultan are set to "liberate" the city, having laid siege for 50 days. A massive artillery barrage breaches the city walls, and the Greek defenders are outnumbered and overrun.

When the Turks batter down the doors of Hagia Sophia, they find thousands of terrified civilians crammed together in the gloom, in clouds of sickly, billowing incense, beseeching God for deliverance from their enemies.

Little wonder that modern reconstructions of ancient Byzantine music sound melancholy. Tune into the Komodo Dragon Show this Wednesday from 8-11am CT for works by the last great Byzantine composer, lampadarios (chorus master), and teacher, Manuel Chrysaphes, eyewitness to the sacking of Constantinople (the aforementioned 1453 sacking, not the "friendly fire" 1204 one).

The frequency is 101.5 in Winnipeg; http://www.umfm.com/ in the Bosphorus.

Set #1 - 8:00am - 11:00am

1. Manuel Chrysaphes: Lament for the Fall of Constantinople
Alexander Lingas - artistic director & tenor soloist, John M. Boyer - baritone soloist, Cappella Romana
The Fall of Constantinople
Capella Romana, CR402-CD
13:12
("O God, the heathen has come into your inheritance... How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever?... Do not remember our old sins, but quickly help us, and have mercy on us." Shades of Psalms 13 and 78!! What would Sam Harris say?)

2. Byzantine Maïstores: Manouil Doukas Chrysafis Vol.1
Christodoulos Halaris - researcher, orchestrator & conductor, OP & PO Orchestra et al.
Orata, BMCRYS 001
162:50
(Speaking of continuing with annoying steadfastness until the end, this is the complete 3-CD set of reconstituted secular tunes by Manuel Chrysaphes, played in sequence from shortest to longest.

But why 160 unbroken minutes of music in the same plodding style? A big FU to the audience? (Which I've been accused of.) No no, the antithesis of soundbite culture.

This is monophony, meaning a single, unaccompanied line of melody, best appreciated by listening to its orchestration unfold. Good arrangers know to spread the melody around: a little here, a little there, a bit to the winds, a bit to the strings. Besides, for many listeners, the ones who font leur toilette and drive kids to school, the Komodo Dragon is not a foreground show.)

Where to buy CDs featured on today's show:
The Fall of Constantinople - CD Universe
Chrysafis Vol.1 - CDBaby

13 April 2011

People who quote Aldous Huxley's Heaven and Hell (1956) are a certain way. He writes: "[I]t is a matter of historical record that most contemplatives worked systematically to modify their body chemistry, with a view to creating the internal conditions favorable to spiritual insight.... In the intervals [between fasting and self-flagellation] they sang interminable psalms, thus increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the lungs and blood stream.... to lower the efficiency of the cerebral reducing valve...." In other words, hyperventilate, and you achieve a visionary experience.

There's so much hyperventilatin' on today's Komodo Dragon Show, from 8-11am Central Time on 101.5 in Winnipeg; http://www.umfm.com in the stream, that I don't want you to start without me.

Set #1 - 8:00am - 10:00am

1. Ioannis Koukouzelis: Kratime (14th cent.)
Lycourgos Angelopoulos - director, Greek Byzantine Choir
Ioannis Koukouzelis: The Byzantine Maestro
Jade, 73138 35809-2
35:58
(Kratime are "free compositions set to diverse syllables that make no sense, such as Te-ri-rem and Ne-ne-na and others, in lieu of a text.... [T]he substitution of free syllables to a text produces a psalmody similar to the unending psalmody of the angels in Heaven (a psalmody without words). Moreover, according to symbolic theology, it is meant to signify the incomprehensibility of the godhead." Take that, Thomas Aquinas! The cardiovascular workout of these choristers is up there in the marathon range.)

2. "Dhikr: Rituel de transe" from Transe Soufie d'Alep (rec. 2002-03)
Sheikh Habboush - voice, Ensemble Al-Kindi: Julien Jâlal Eddine Weiss - musical direction & kanun; Abdelkader Massarani, Ali Sabe, Hassan Altounji, Zacharia Muhyeddin & Jawadakh - voice; Muhammad Qadri Dalal - ud; Ziad Qadi Amin - ney; Adel Shams Eddine - riq; Yahyah Hamami - dervish
Le chant du monde, 574 1251.52
88'
("Dhikr [zikr] means 'evocation' and it consists of the repetition of God's names within ritual patterns.... The contents of the songs raise emotional states of joy, sadness, or peace in the participants until the apex of the ceremony when many people abandon themselves to the feeling of God's love.")

Set #2 - 10:00am - 11:00am

3. Rodion Shchedrin: The Sealed Angel (1988)
Text after Nikolai Leskov (1872)
Vladimir Minin - conductor, Lolita Semenina - soprano, Natalia Belova - soprano, Tatiana Zhdanova - mezzo-soprano, Alexei Alexeyev - tenor, Andrei Azovsky - descant, Alexander Illarionov - alto, Alexander Golyshev - flute, Moscow Chamber Choir, USSR Russian Choir, Tatiana Kurpekova, Ludmila Urman & Vladimir Urman - chorus masters
Melodiya, 74321 36905 2
60:40
(The text mixes Orthodox chants with the story of a community of Old Believers – a conservative offshoot of the State Orthodox Church – and a miraculous ikon, symbolized musically by the flute. Commentators say: "Subtle, thinly veiled themes of greed, governmental oppression, and betrayal are juxtaposed with those of repentance and redemption." "This tale is a parable about the imperishable nature of beauty, the futility of power, and the immortality and power of art." Note this was composed in the final years of Communism in the USSR.)

Where to buy CDs featured on today's show:
Ioannis Koukouzelis: The Byzantine Maestro - CD Universe
Transe Soufie d'Alep - CD Universe
The Sealed Angel [a different recording] - CD Universe

06 April 2011

In the booklet notes of an album that I'm not broadcasting today, David Hykes writes: "I have had just one real aim: to seek out a true, symbolic musical language, simple and universal, which could express the quest for contact with a level of being higher than oneself." This language "[emanates] from this most basic music universal – the harmonic series – present in all vocal or instrumental sound."

(Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku says "the universe is a symphony of vibrating strings." How plausible is this analogy? Do vibrating cosmic strings behave in a manner akin to vibrating catgut?)

You can orient yourselves for contact with that higher realm in various ways, Listeners: physiologically, cognitively, spiritually... not in some hokey, New Age sense, but in what the Germans call Geistesentwicklung (lit. "spirit development"), usually translated less punchily as "development of mental faculties."

Tune in for the same this Wednesday from 8-11am CT on 101.5 in Winnipeg, http://www.umfm.com/ in the stream. You don't want to suffer from Geistesentwicklungslosigkeiten, do you?

Set #1 - 8:00am - 10:00am

1. Richard Burdick: Waves (2010)
Richard Burdick - French horn
I Ching Music, CD 28
38:39
(A warning: "This music is tuned very carefully, but it is not tuned to the equal temperament that we so often hear." Richard Burdick composes with microtonal scales based on the 64 harmonics in the seventh octave above the fundamental. He writes: "I believe this to be an important tool to aid in our evolution; waking the brain to new sound waves." Played here on six horns overlayed.)

2. Udo Kasemets: Timetrip to Big Bang, Big Bang & Back (1990-93)
Adele Armin - RAAD electric violin, Chris Devonshire - electronics, Susan Layard - voice, Marc Sabat - ZETA electric violin, Rick Sacks - percussion
Artifact Music, ART 010
77:19
(I once gave Udo Kasemets a bad review which is probably still online. A "musical-poetic mapping of some of the phases of the evolutionary process set into motion by the Big Bang" — a grand music of the spheres.)

Set #2 - 10:00am - 11:00am

3. Howard Bashaw: Seven Spheres (1996, rev. 1998)
The Saint Crispin's Chamber Ensemble: Don Ross - conductor, Martin Riseley - violin, Colin Ryan - cello, Allison Storochuk - clarinet, David Quinn, - bass clarinet, Russell Whitehead - trumpet, Trevor Brandenburg - percussion, Roger Admiral - piano
Arktos Recordings, 2039/40 CD
19:34
("Each movement of Seven Spheres is an adventure in the organization of musical time." Movements bear phantasmagoric titles: "Tempo Collage: Scalar Wisps & the Five Unisons" and "Celestarium: The Coruscate Prism" among others.)

4. Alex Shapiro: Chakra Suite (2005)
Thakur Chakrapani Singh - veena, Mr. Jitendra - tabla, Alex Shapiro - guitar & electronics
Activist Music, download
10:38
(East-meets-West collaboration.)

Where to buy CDs featured on today's show:
Rick Burdick - CDBaby
Udo Kasemets - Canadian Music Centre
Howard Bashaw - Canadian Music Centre
Alex Shapiro - Activist Music