David Lang's 'Child' -
reviewed by RON BIERMAN
'... interesting melodic turns and mild Latin feel ...'
David Lang is one of the founders of Bang on a Can, a New York festival devoted
to contemporary music. The name of the festival implies an informal approach -- no
tuxedos or stilted compositional conventions here. Let the good times roll. Bang
on a Can often features, among other modern works, minimalist pieces by composers
such as Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and the relatively young Mr Lang. Lang's
credentials are outstanding. They include a doctorate from the Yale School of Music
in 1989. He has studied with Jacob Druckman and Hans Werner Henze. His music has
been performed by major orchestras in both the United States and Europe.
This disk features compositions for chamber ensembles. Though they were written
for different instrumental combinations, and four separate performing groups, Lang
has combined the pieces into a suite. Album notes are sketchy, so I have to assume
it's titled Child to emphasize a striving for simple innocence and beauty.
But I'm not sure Lang's transition from Yale doctorate to simple innocence is
entirely complete. At a minimum, pun intended, you have to be in the mood.
The first movement, my very empty mouth, probably represents a baby's
uncomplicated and insistent demand to be fed. If so, it perfectly recreates how
annoying that demand can be [listen -- track 1, 0:01-1:13].
The movement is nearly thirteen minutes long with only overly subtle variations
in melody and color, though I do like the murky bass clarinet.
I might have reacted more favorably to Child if it had started with the
jauntier second movement, sweet air. Its more interesting melodic turns
and mild Latin feel do a better job of showing why minimalism has a substantial
following [listen -- track 2, 2:28-3:31].
Copyright © 4 June 2003
Ron Bierman, San Diego, USA