Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

For the past five years or so I've posted reviews of classical music CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays, in various places on the web: Amazon.com, iTunes and other sites. I'll collect those earlier reviews, and add four or five new ones every month.

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Into your life it will creep

http://amzn.to/2dvMSyH

"You are here", the first track on Darcy James Argue's new album Real Enemies (due to be released by Real Amsterdam Records on September 30, 2016) really took me back. It begins with the sounds of shortwave: the Voice of America (if I'm not mistaken), the time station WWV, from Ft. Collins, Colorado, and one of those great Numbers Stations used to communicate with spies in the field. I began listening back in the glory days of the Cold War, in the late 1960s and early 70s, to Radio Peking and Radio Moscow, and the CIA-funded Radio Swan. But, believe it or not, the Numbers Stations are still going.



The Real Enemies project is about America's Paranoia Industrial Complex: the endless conspiracies that fuel political campaigns and bedevil our daily lives on Twitter and Facebook.  You could just about pick a story from Google News at random today, and hit on a real or imagined conspiracy: 'rigged' election debates, Russian campaign hacks, anti-vaxxers running for President. All from one day. Argue, a Canadian who has lived in Brooklyn since 2003, has the outsider's clear-eyed approach, which gives him the freedom to hang his music on any conspiracy hook that comes to mind. I don't know, we may not have conspiracies here in Canada. Don't you think that's odd?

Anyway, that's the concept, and it's a beautiful context for some very cool music. Film is an obvious place to start; Argue mentions two specific scores from 1970s conspiracy thrillers: Michael Small's score for The Parallax View (1974), and David Shire's for All the President's Men (1976). I heard Bernard Herrmann's iconic score from Taxi Driver (1976 as well), but then I also heard the same music in Jean-Fery Rebel's Le Chaos, written in 1737. There are other influences: I also thought of big band master Kenny Wheeler (another Canadian), Schoenberg's Wind Quintet and Robert Fripp from the King Crimson years. The actual quotations or influences don't really matter. Argue has a huge palate that he can work with, and he has the taste and the musical wit to find the perfectly apposite style to match, or dramatize, or satirize any crazy theory that's out there. Most important is perhaps his light touch, expressed often with a Latin beat, which serves him well when he gets close to the awful 9-11 theories or the disastrous Middle Eastern fiascos of American presidents.

Not long ago I reviewed the CD Suite Cantiga by the Brazilian guitarist Alvaro Henrique, which included a very similar project from 2010 by the electroacoustic composer Jorge Antunes, entitled Brasilia 50. The track "1963" begins with the same speech by JKF used by Argue in "The Hidden Hand", "The very word secrecy is repugnant in a free and open society..." This is some very cool synchronicity, since America and Brazil have tons of conspiracies and paranoia between them. They can swap and share! [Alvaro's track is used with permission]



Here is the pre-release track "Best Friends Forever", from the Darcy James Argue Secret Society Bandcamp page. There's lots more information on the project, including upcoming live performances, at this page.

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