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Music by Kellogg and Crumb -
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'... an intriguing release with outstanding performances.'

beginnings : eighth blackbird. © 2004 Cedille Records

The eighth blackbird sextet consists of flute, clarinet, violin, cello, percussion and piano. The programme is titled 'beginnings' because the two works, in the tradition of Haydn and others, depict the Creation. Modern composers have an advantage though. They are better at describing the chaos that preceded life and the cold mystery that seems to fill so much of the universe beyond our solar system. I'll leave to you whether that's good or bad.

Daniel Kellogg was born in 1976 and brings youthful enthusiasm to his view of creation. Divinum Mysterium, a text by Prudentius, is the basis for the hymn Of the Father's Love Begotten. That hymn is central to Kellogg's piece and is sung by Chanticleer to set the stage [listen -- track 1, 0:00-1:03]. Five instrumental movements follow. The first, representing initial chaos, generates a mood of excited anticipation rather than fear. A quieter, more serious mood then suggests God's first actions. By the middle of the suite, creation presents a promising and benign face, influenced no doubt by Kellogg's Christian beliefs. The hymn reappears in various forms in each movement, and cello and piano restate it clearly in the final movement titled 'Rejoicing'.

The composer's use of jazz-influenced percussion is the most distinctive aspect of this largely tonal music. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that percussionist Matthew Duvall moonlights with a big band. His aggressive style seems entirely appropriate to the effect Kellogg is after, especially in the concluding movement [listen -- track 6, 6:35-7:58].

Divinum Mysterium, though clearly modern classic music, is more approachable than most contemporary works. Commissioned by eighth blackbird, it makes refreshing use of melody and rhythm. I enjoy listening to it and will be looking to hear more of Kellogg.

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Copyright © 26 June 2005 Ron Bierman, San Diego, USA


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