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MV3 -- Gordon Rumson and Keith Bramich visit the world of music online

Music & Vision's monthly column -

David Arditti

A Young UK based composer with decidedly retro sensibilities...

'David Arditti's setting of this poem by Michael Drayton (1563-1631) for SATB choir, unaccompanied, was composed in 1998 and first performed in London on 11 November 2000 by the Camden Chamber Choir conducted by Peter Lea-Cox, the performers who are heard on this recording.'

This work, which might have been composed by a student of Parry or Stanford 100 years ago is still beautiful. It inhabits a world of music in which Schoenberg, Webern, Boulez, Stockhausen and Cage never existed. I don't think that is a bad thing, though some might be put off by the retroactivity of the music. I found that listening to the choral music while reading the text enhanced my appreciation for its beauties.

Alex Shapiro

Don't let look and location put you off (My gosh, she lives in Malibu!?!) here's a first-rate, real composer. Her piano sonata is tough, tightly controlled motivically in the manner of mid-century American serious composers, but it is also musically tense and expressive. This is the genuine article. Of Bow and Touch (Double Bass and Piano) which was winner of a 2001 award from The International Society of Bassists, sounds here in the brief clip and proves a very interesting and effective work. I enjoyed the work Re:pair for Two Baroque Flutes. Delightful. You can hear clips of a number of her compositions and read her interesting biography -- she's done a huge amount not only as a musician, but as a civil rights activist. Alex Shapiro is a name people should know, she's got it all. She is, in a word, a serious and significant composer of beautiful music. Hats off! And you can buy her music at the site. Excuse me, I just have to go and put in my order now...

Carson Cooman at Mp3

I am not here an innocent bystander as I know the composer, formidable pianist and organist, Carson Cooman. He has performed my works and I his. But perhaps this little bit of background will help put my words in perspective: When I first looked at his music (not a good idea, since music is sound) my reaction was something like 'Where's the music? So few notes, so few ideas?' Then I undertook to play a set of his Kayser Variations on God Save the King and it dawned on me that there was much more here than just the notes. When I performed the piece the audience whooped wildly at the end. The moral of the story is never judge music without giving it a chance. I hope Carson will understand my honest, but incorrect and now corrected, first reaction.

Besides, he can not only write a rousing good piece, but also dense, serious and coherent work. Listen to the Sonata for Brass. Very brash, very American and very effective. The Joy of Humankind-Transport for Orchestra reminds me a bit of Lenny Bernstein's Candide in style. In St Joan (Improvisation) for organ Cooman improvises freely, wildly and wonderfully. He likes tonality, though modified by the quartal harmony so characteristic of American 'serious' composers. He's not above a simple pentatonic tune if it serves his purposes. The music is always attractive.

Carson Cooman is also a fascinating musician in another way: he regularly performs new compositions and seeks out other composers. He takes chances, does much and does not sit on his hands. Hear him.

BTW He plays the Kayser Variations MUCH better than I.

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Copyright © 7 May 2001 Gordon Rumson, Calgary, Alberta, Canada


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