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Classical Music Review

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Kenneth Gaburo Conducts New Music Choral Ensemble


Composers: various
Conductor: Kenneth Gaburo
Label: Neuma Records
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 04 December 2020

Kenneth Gaburo, pioneer of electronic tape music and compositional linguistics at the University of Illinois conducted New Music Choral Ensemble live in concert in 1967. It includes sixteen student singers, who formed the first ensemble in the U.S. dedicated to contemporary vocal compositions.

First things first. This is not an album I would have chosen to listen to... in fact it took quite some will power to sit through the entire thing. The problem, for me, is I am not a fan of music that is designed to annoy the crap out of its listeners, whilst belittling the musicians/singers talents by asking them to deliver music that is just awful - like fingernails down a blackboard. No doubt other, more progressive music fans, will see my old man ramblings as a sure sign that I'm out of touch. But don't just take my word for it... I think the press release pretty much sums it up in this sentence: "Gibberish, scat, sighs, whispers, as well as more refined musical tones, were coming from their vocal cords."

While I am totally onboard with the technical merits and the finer points of the vocal performances... it just all sounded rather stupid. Take 'The Wasting Of Lucrecetzia'. On a comedy record this would probably be quite amusing. The jazz performance is speeded up (progressively so, as the track moves forward) to the point where it sounds like Alvin's Chipmunks are having a fight with the smurfs in a jazz club.

By the time we get to 'Lilacs' I'm ready to pretend I've listened to the album and just switch off (something I've sworn never to do). And thank goodness I didn't. This track is wonderfully performed and somehow flits from happiness to sadness to soulful to ethereal to playful to eerie in a heartbeat as it constantly grows and changes.

'Entflieht Auf Leichten Kahnen' is another interesting composition, which is handled well, but in all honesty these were the only tracks of real merit here. If you're a fan of avant-garde music... well, you can fill your boots here.

Track listing:

Ben Johnston
01 - Ci-Git-Satie (1966) (3:26)

Pauline Oliveros
02 - Sound Patterns (1962) (3:21)

Charles Hamm
03 - Round (1967) (5:03)

Kenneth Gaburo
04 - The Wasting of Lucrecetzia (1964) (3:51)

Robert Shallenberg
05 - Lilacs (1966) (3:18)

Leslie Bassett
06 - Notes in the Silence #3 (1966) (2:13)

Luigi Nono
07 - Sara Dolce Tacere (1960) (7:02)
Text: Cesare Pavese (La Terra e la Morta)

Anton Webern
08 - Entflieht Auf Leichten Kahnen, op. 2 (1909) (2:29)
Text: Stefan George

Kenneth Gaburo
09 - Fat Millie’s Lament (1965) (4:38)

Olivier Messiaen
10 - Cinq Rechants (1948) (18:02)


Darren Rea

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