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David Lang's 'Child' -
reviewed by RON BIERMAN

'... interesting melodic turns and mild Latin feel ...'

David Lang: Child. © 2003 Cantaloupe

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].

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Copyright © 4 June 2003 Ron Bierman, San Diego, USA


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