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David LANG (b.1957)
Pierced (2007) [13:51]
Lou REED (b. 1942) – arranged by David LANG (2002)
Heroin [10:57]
David LANG
Cheating, Lying, Stealing (1993/1995) [10:42]
How to Pray (2002) [09:55] 
Wed (1996) [05:18]
Evan Ziporyn (bass clarinet – Cheating); Theo Bleckmann (vocals – Heroin); Real Quiet (David Cossin (percussion – Pierced, Cheating, Pray); Felix Fan (cello – Pierced, Heroin, Cheating, Pray); Andrew Russo (piano and synthesiser – Pierced, Cheating, Pray, Wed); Boston Modern Orchestra Project/Gil Rose (Pierced)
rec. 27 May 2008, Jordan Hall, Boston, MA (Pierced) and 17 May 2008, Setnor Hall, Syracuse, NY and 3 June 2008, Analogue Muse, New York, NY, DDD
NAXOS 8.559615 [51:03] 
Experience Classicsonline


Mark Swed wrote in the Los Angeles Times, about Lang's work, that "There is no name yet for this kind of music", and in some respects he is correct. It isn't minimal in the Glass/Reich sense of the word. Nor is it New Age, transcendental, experimental, trance, elusive, dance or fusion. Like the wonderful, and equally exciting, John Luther Adams, it's all of these things and none of them.
 

Basically, it's music, pure and simple; raw, energetic, exciting, thoughtful music. Pierced has all of these qualities. It's a relentless onslaught, in the manner of some of Zappa's compositions, but with much more interest, better scored and with a real sense of where it's going. Lang calls it a Concerto, but without the usual confrontation between soloist and orchestra. Certainly there is no give and take, it's in–yer–face music, and it doesn't take prisoners. It's angular, rhythmic, elemental stuff, never letting up for a moment of its short duration. It's very satisfying, the work making a perfect whole, knowing exactly where it stands in the musical scheme of things. This work is worth the modest price of the disk alone. It's fabulous. 

Lang's arrangement of Lou Reed's Heroin is set for voice with a Bach–like accompaniment for solo cello. This is very haunting indeed, a beautiful meditation based on the simplest of material. Bleckmann's husky vocals are just right for the music he is given and Fann plays easily and blends well with the voice. When it ends we're left suspended in mid air. 

Cheating, Lying, Stealing is a very funky piece, full of the angularity we have come to expect from Lang, which fragments towards the end. There's a very exciting use of silence which breaks up the flow and disquiets the listener just as one has got used to the forward momentum. How to Pray inhabits a totally different sound-world, using only percussion, keyboards and amplified cello. It has a bluesy feel to it, is loud and hard–edged, unrelenting in its outlook and is quite a difficult listen. This needs some study to get to the heart of the matter but it’s well worth it. 

To end, a piano solo – Wed, from a cycle called Memory Pieces – which gently moves between major and minor. The notes in the booklet, which consist of a conversation between the composer and pianist Andrew Russo, call this trance-like. It certainly inhabits a world where time seems to have stood still. It makes a very relaxed, and unexpected, ending to a very stimulating disk of music by a composer who hasn’t really been discovered in the UK, and deserves to be better known. 

These performances are totally committed and carry the stamp of authority. The sound is very good, easily capturing the bigness of Pierced yet having an intimate feel in Wed. As always with David Lang, I was left wanting more. I think that his special art will have you on the edge of your seat feeling the same. I hope so, for your sake. 

Bob Briggs



 


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