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Daniel LENTZ (b. 1941)
Is it Love? [9:04]
Lascaux [9:21]
On the Leopard Altar [5:19]
Wolf is Dead ... [10:05]
Requiem [2:27]
Jessica Lowe, Paul MacKey, Susan James, Dennis Parnell (voices); Brad Ellis, David Kuehn, Arlene Dunlap, Daniel Lentz (keyboards); Brad Ellis, David Kuehn, Arlene Dunlap, Jessica Lowe, Susan James (wineglasses)
rec. Santa Barbara, California, February 1984
COLD BLUE MUSIC CB0022 [36:18]


First issued on LP in 1984, the opening bars of Daniel Lentz’s On the Leopard Altar seem to place it firmly in the minimalist idiom of that period, to place it, that is, with the work of Riley, Glass and Reich. But as one listens further, it becomes clear that Lentz was not a fully signed-up minimalist. Yes, ‘Is it love?’ makes one think immediately of that Americanised gamelan music, that phased and staggered repetition of melodic and rhythmic units, those percussive keyboard sounds, those synthesiser pulses; but before long the music moves through different tonalities with a speed that more doctrinaire ‘minimalists’ would have found quite unseemly and the singing has a charm that belongs in a different musical language.

Later, in ‘Requiem’, the last track on the CD – the short playing time of which is the result of it being the straight reissue of an LP – Jessica Lowe’s voice produces an effect quite other than any one might have anticipated from the opening of ‘Is it Love?’. The mood, her voice heard in a reverberant acoustic with keyboards chiming like church bells, is a strange and hypnotic fusion of ritual music from some unknown religion and an unissued track by Enya! In between, there’s ‘Lascaux’, a piece played on twenty five tuned wine glasses; the composer tells us that sixteen of them are rubbed and nine struck. Reverb has been added, but otherwise the sounds are undoctored – and very beautiful they are, slow and haunting, with a startling purity. ‘Wolf is Dead’ is, again, closer to minimalist idioms; insistent patterns and pulses, create, for my taste, a surface and texture so highly polished that the attention too easily slips off, for all the undoubted vivacity of the writing. ‘On the Leopard Altar’ is altogether sparer - and altogether more compelling - in texture. It uses six short songs - I wish the texts were provided - each heard both alone and in combination with its fellows. The results are intriguing, at times beautiful.

This early work by Lentz is, for the most part, still striking and effective. It suggests a composer with several strings to his bow, with the musical imagination to strike out in a number of different directions. Unfortunately I have heard very little of the music Lentz has written since On the Leopard Altar, but from what I have read of it his later work has, indeed, been stylistically various and imaginative.

In the magazine Mojo, in August 1998, Paul McCartney described On the Leopard Altar as "a strange record" and declared that it "should’ve been a hit". Perhaps it is too late for it to be a ‘hit’ - though I could imagine either ‘Requiem’ or ‘Lascaux’ getting a lot of attention if plugged in the right quarter. Classic FM, perhaps? It isn’t too late, though, for it to find listeners who might enjoy its unclassifiable music – not quite ‘classical’, not quite ‘new age’, not quite … just playful, inventive, engaging music.

Glyn Pursglove


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