Like JMW Turner’s maritime images, Petuch’s art likely wouldn’t have been appreciated for its full weight in the mid-19th century. Be they nonlinear plots, broad brushstrokes, or mixing strings with harsh electronics, these are abstract and unconventional methods. Petuch makes this idiom work by attaching recognizable themes like the passage of time or a famous whale. “8p is like one chord and they can play it as long as they want.” Naturally, you won’t hear the notes and immediately think of early evening. However, we can meditate on the piece and make those connections ourselves. What exactly does this piece represent? We’ll let our ears tell us.
Merz has set himself apart as a composer through his willingness to deemphasize his own talents in favor of accessibility. “Virtuosity is tied up with the classical tradition, and I’m looking for ways to subvert that. I’d rather get the emotion out of the technique rather than show off the technique.” Instead of championing his own specific narrative, he’s creating pieces that further the classical and electronic music traditions without having to lean on their complexity. As with the inclusivity of Mediated Intimacy, Merz is extending his arms outward toward lovers of art instead of drawing boundaries between them.
“I guess you could say it has elements of film music,” Mark humbly quips about a few of his works. If he’d gone down the standard path of film composition, it might be his name flashing on the big screen after everyone’s left the theater. Even calling him a film composer is way off the mark. Instead, we’ve got his name behind pieces that have a tangible human component to them, be they an interview with someone who lives with a double lung transplant or a reimagining of history’s emotional weight. An artist’s artist, Brian Mark is an intelligent, modern composer who employs many media elements and does so with marked idiosyncrasy and depth.
Close your eyes, turn out the lights, and listen to Trevor Babb’s “Septet.” Put enough research and complexity behind your music, and you can still appeal to the brain which often seeks only that which is immediately rewarding. Trevor Babb encompasses the best of both worlds, where the music is pleasant to the ears while remaining stimulating to the thinking mind. The universe Babb creates sucks you in, and you’ll have no problem staying with him until Warmth has said all it needs to say.
“Genre-defying” and “experimental” are words that music critics enjoy tossing around, especially when it comes to genre-mixing. However, most genre-mixing is old news, and the terms only gesture at describing a diverse arrangement. Every once in awhile, though, someone earns the terms. M. Lamar’s records are shining examples that successfully blend opera, doom metal, classical, and electronic music, usually within the course of one song. Sound confusing? Give him a listen and you’ll see what I mean. Until the day where Lamar’s work gets a specific genre tag, we’ll be scratching our heads trying to explain it, and reveling in its abstract wonder.
Reality is rarely compartmentalized into the rigid structure of a three-minute pop song. Recalling the full beauty of a painting or a landscape can’t be related without losing the finer details. Longer compositions, it seems, make for music that’s most representative of mother nature.
Kakitani’s chosen medium is big band, and how better to convey nature’s complexities than with a 20-person band? Unlike many prodigious jazzers, Kakitani wasn’t heading down this path from age 18 and on. True, she became infatuated with hard bebop around this age, but nevertheless toiled around different genres before landing at Berklee School of Music at age 26.
The only thing richer than Chou’s current discography is the way in which it is growing. Her current work-in-progress, Comfort Girl, will focus on the unsettling history of Chinese “comfort women” during World War II. In Chou’s own words: “The show will be a musical exploration—in song and story—of the lives of Chinese ‘comfort women’ who were abducted into sexual slavery by the Japanese army during WWII. The work will be a tribute to these young women’s incandescent courage and indomitable spirit, not only while in captivity during the War, but also—in a cruel irony—when they returned home to their families, who didn’t always welcome them back with open arms.” A bold task. But, given Chou’s uncanny ability to meld artistic styles, who could be better suited? The piece will premiere next year at the China Institute in America, in downtown New York. Teresa Teng would not only be proud, she’d likely get a little jealous.
Even if it’s with someone unquestionably genuine, verbal communication is difficult to recall. Although one may remember the words that were spoken, there were feelings, objects, weather, and countless other subatomic details that were simultaneously present during conversation. The same goes for life events. Say you lost a job or fell in love. How can that deeply personal experience be translated without filter?