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Mood Swings
Elvis COSTELLO: My mood swings Elvis Costello, vocal
Gordon Matthew SUMNER: Until... Gordon Matthew Sumner ("Sting"), vocal
Kate CURTIS and Will SOUTH: The Abyss Jacqui Dankworth, vocal
Blatchington Mill School Venus Flytrap Ian Shaw, vocal
BJÖRK: Iíve Seen it All Björk, vocal
Emma LUDLOW: Shallow Footsteps Sophie Grimmer, vocal
Daniel MONK: Song Jacqui Dankworth, vocal
Meredith MONK: Gotham Lullaby Meredith Monk, vocal
Richard Rodney BENNET: I Never Went Away Richard Rodney Bennet, vocal
Arieh MILLER: Swearing At the Moon Ian Shaw, vocal
Emma TILYER: When Darkness Comes Adey Grummet, vocal
Ron SEXSMITH: Dumptruck Ron Sexsmith, vocal
Errolyn WALLEN: Daedalus Errolyn Wallen, vocal
Randy NEWMAN: Real Emotional Girl Elvis Costello, vocal
Performed and/or accompanied by the Brodsky Quartet
Recorded at Snake Ranch Studio, London, UK, 2003 - 2004.
Notes in English
BRODSKY BRD 3501 [55.23]

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The Kronos Quartet of San Francisco, USA, developed a considerable following by playing unusual classical, ethnic and crossover repertoire and by posing for provocative publicity photographs. One canít blame a British quartet for thinking they could do something similar. "The Brodsky Quartetís musical explorations know no limits," says Gramophone. I am a great admirer of the Brodsky Quartet, but now I guess I should say, the Brodsky Quartetís classical recordings.

This is not a crossover classical disk, this is a pop music disk wherein a classical string quartet is attempting to fill the function of a pop backup ensemble. A friend who is a specialist in renaissance lute repertoire and a Professor of Early Music also plays in a local rock band and jazz ensemble, with considerable success; so I am aware of and sympathetic to a skilled and talented musicianís pan-musical expression. Most of the songs on this disk were written by students and one assumes that the big names have come on board to help launch what may be their careers, something called the "Brodsky Education Project". No surprise that the Meredith Monk and Richard Rodney Bennett numbers are the best on the disk, but neither represents either artist at the peak of skill either in composition or singing. The other tracks accomplish little beyond parading before us in new sequences the very familiar clichés of the pop music field, although the string quartet occasionally introduces great moments from Schoenberg, Cowell or Shostakovich. The effect even at the best moments are about that of two radios tuned to different stations playing in one room.

I mistrusted my initial negative reaction to this disk, so I passed it on to some dear friends who are much more knowledgeable about and sympathetic to pop music, but their reaction was, if possible, even more negative than mine. The problem is you donít analyse a pop music disk and appreciate subtle multilayered values. The disk either grooves or it doesnít, the tracks either fly, or swing, or rock, or they donít. The verdict from this disk seems to be that classical and pop musicians should, as the shoemakers were once told, stick to their lasts. Is there any kindness in encouraging students to enter the cruel, competitive pop music marketplace unless they have the kind of veridical talent that overcomes all obstacles and sweeps away all compromise ó in other words, they donít need anybodyís help? There is much talk about who "helped" the Beatles found their career, but isnít the real point there that their talent was so powerful no one could have stood in their way?

Perhaps I am completely missing the point, but I do not see any good to come of encouraging childrenís fantasies that by writing a pop song at age 14 they will be assured of having a six figure income by age 15 and can then feel excused from all obligation ever to make a constructive contribution either to their own life or that of the community.

Even the presence during the writing of this review of Mr. Gordon Matthew Sumner himself at our local university conducting a "master class" in whatever it is he is the master of, was unable to soften the atmosphere to admit light to this evaluation. Press coverage suggested that Mr. Sumner was being honoured by the academic community, however in the fine print we read that his publicity agent arranged the appearance. However it is worth noting that Mr. Sumner emphasised in his talk to the music students that the proper preparation for a pop music career is a solid grounding in the classics and classic techniques.

Paul Shoemaker

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