Force of Light

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Thom Jurek
The notion of creating a musical album around the works of a poet, any poet, is a contentious one, whether the music is composed by the writer, or, as it is here, a posthumous homage and affirmative response to one of the most enigmatic, mysterious, and brilliant poets of the 20th century, Paul Celan. Guitarist Dan Kaufman and his collaborators have undertaken a mighty effort because Celan's body of work, though emotionally loaded with images of separation, death, and an unnameable, even unspeakable loneliness and anguish, is a quiet one. His poems speak slowly, deliberately, and more often than not, indirectly. They are, nonetheless, razor sharp at getting through to the ...
See more details below
CD
$14.75
BN.com price
(Save 13%)$16.99 List Price
Other sellers (CD)
  • All (4) from $12.32   
  • New (4) from $12.32   

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Thom Jurek
The notion of creating a musical album around the works of a poet, any poet, is a contentious one, whether the music is composed by the writer, or, as it is here, a posthumous homage and affirmative response to one of the most enigmatic, mysterious, and brilliant poets of the 20th century, Paul Celan. Guitarist Dan Kaufman and his collaborators have undertaken a mighty effort because Celan's body of work, though emotionally loaded with images of separation, death, and an unnameable, even unspeakable loneliness and anguish, is a quiet one. His poems speak slowly, deliberately, and more often than not, indirectly. They are, nonetheless, razor sharp at getting through to the small root that opens into a vast abyss at the center of language; where it doesn't hold meaning captive any longer. In Celan's work, it breaks down instead, allowing the reader to fall headlong into the space generated by its broken bits and pieces; it leaves nothing to hold onto, even though his lines are taut, spare, skeletal. They leave no room for the reader escape from what they reveal, and draw tears from the pit of the belly. Born in Romania, Celan was a Jew who, along with his parents, was rounded up by the Nazis and sent into the labor and concentration camps. Both his parents died there: his father contracted typhus; his mother was executed. Almost in direct response to Theodor Adorno's notion that there can be no poetry after Auschwitz, Celan wrote the most beautiful and haunting poetry from the very root pot of that poisonous plant. Celan and Edmond Jabes another Jewish poet, in this case exiled from Cairo during the Suez crisis wrote consistently and totally from the place of the wound caused by the Holocaust and historical exile of the Jew, and neither was didactic. In Celan's case, that wound was so great that it finally consumed him; he committed suicide. While literary critics debate the deconstruction of meaning in Celan's and Jabes' work, the rest of us have merely to open the book and consider it, to allow it in and to let it change our worlds. Kaufman has done just that. Far from stringing along musical phrases to underscore poignant points in the writer's text, he understands that every pause is poignant. His job lies elsewhere, to reveal the ready meaning in these poems, to allow the listener to hear the way a human voice can utter them, and with his music, accompany them along into the depths of the human heart and its own mystery. Kaufman plays both electric and nylon-string guitar and, on occasion, lap steel. His collaborators include Pamelia Kurstin on theremin, Danny Tunick on vibes and marimba, Peter Hess on clarinets, Dan Coates and Peter Lettre on basses, and drummer John Bollinger. Other musical guests include Julia Kent on cello and Catherine McRae and Sarah Bernstein on violins. The voice reading these poems is no less than Fiona Templeton's. On the first track, Kaufman offers up one of Celan's most famous works, "Shibboleth." His nylon-string guitar fills the space very carefully as Templeton reads: "Together with my stones/Grown big with weeping/Behind the bars/They dragged me out into the middle of the market/That place where the flag unfurls/To which I swore no kind of allegiance/Flute, double flute of night/Remember the dark twin redness of the enemy and Madrid/Set your flag at half mast, memory/At half mast today and forever/Heart, here too reveal what you are/Here in the midst of the market/Calling Shibboleth/Call it out into your alien homeland...." Kaufman's dramatic tension rises even as Templeton's voice remains steady, the music revealing the calling out of "Shibboleth" into the "alien homeland," where both speaker and spoken ring incessantly in the hollows of history. It may have been Madrid, invoked by the excruciating memory of the author, but it rings inside all of us and without us, forgotten but ever a reminder in our world, shown almost daily on television; when passively agreed to, this place approaches the same possibility as the former Yugoslavia, or Darfur. Kaufman is no autodidact. In the music of Celan's skeletal poems, he hears that there can be no symphonies to adorn them, only sonic appendages to his "Force of Light." The title track that follows this opening is loaded and no words ever come from the mouth of the reader. The terrain where "force" happens -- painted by electric guitars, cello, vibes, marimba, an electric bass, and drum kit -- is a fragile one, so one must approach cautiously. And this band does -- slowly, every slowly at first but gaining ground and momentum even as this field of sound is broken -- wrangling itself through counterpoint and dynamic changes with angles not measured so much as simply manifested, almost to shake off the meaning of the previous poem, but instead underscore what it means. Consequently, the tune doesn't end; it just ceases a frame at a time. Kaufman follows no formula on this album. Some pieces have poems within them and some are purely instrumental tracks, such as "The Black Forest," in which off-kilter marimba and guitars call out for the violins and drums to answer. Basslines point a way into the tangle, but Kaufman's indirect, emotionally taut composition digs ever deeper into the mass of sound for 14 minutes, allowing listeners to experience glimpses of sunlight through the shadows. There is a repetitive theme, but it's the pulse of itself, insistent on its existence as the instruments engage one another and give way from one thematic concern to the next, always with klezmer and Yiddish folk music in equal tension with jazz and modern classical music; they are in turns quizzical, ambiguous, humorous, and nearly aggressive. The solos by theremin and bass clarinet to this restated theme are some of the more remarkable moments on this already quite stunning record. Elsewhere, "Voice in the Mountains" is an extended meditation on what it means to be a Jew: the other to others, to oneself, and to other Jews, who are united so deeply under the skin by history yet wholly other to the cultures of the world -- and as spoken of in the world, even in the mountains, where one "Jew recognizes another Jew." There is that space of acknowledgement through thousands of years, and that space of aloneness and singularity lying in the heart that cannot be answered in earthly tones. The text opens by itself, is drawn in and out by a composition that takes into account ambient soundscapes, jazz, folk themes, and klezmer, and then fades out, in, and out again, drawn in ever widening circles by Kaufman's varied and brilliant harmonic interplay, accents, colors, and textures, which feel lush but with hidden sharp edges. Celan gave a speech to a German audience in the '50s, speaking to them in their native tongue, and likened the poem to starting a dialogue, but knew not with whom, as "a message in a bottle, sent out in the -- not always greatly hopeful -- belief that somewhere and sometime it could wash up on land." Kaufman writes in his liner notes that "these are songs washed up on land." This is the response to that opening dialogue, set in song no less, one that carries on with volume and vibration long after silence appears to have overtaken it. Kaufman's Force of Light is among the most profound settings for poetry in music. It is musically so rich, varied, and poetic in its own right that it can not be separated from the poems -- nor can it contain them, and he understands this implicitly. Nor can the language in the poems contain this music; it speaks out from the land not into the sea, but into those mountains where not only does "Jew recognize Jew," but anyone human being can, should he or she desire it, see another. Kaufman's recording is among the best of 2007; it is sophisticated yet accessible to anyone, heartbreaking in its articulation, and provocative in its assertions because its speaks gently enough for the moral authority of both spoken and musical text to be not only heard and assented to, but grasped for its context in history and in this present future moment.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • Release Date: 9/25/2007
  • Label: Tzadik
  • UPC: 702397811923
  • Catalog Number: 8119
  • Sales rank: 171,352

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1 Shibboleth (2:23)
  2. 2 Force of Light (5:10)
  3. 3 Aspen Tree (7:52)
  4. 4 Corner of Time (6:45)
  5. 5 Count the Almonds (6:59)
  6. 6 The Black Forest (6:19)
  7. 7 Conversation in the Mountains (14:32)
  8. 8 Sky Beetle (5:51)
Read More Show Less

Album Credits

Performance Credits
Dan Kaufman Primary Artist, Electric Guitar, Lap Steel Guitar, Guitar (Nylon String)
Julia Kent Cello, Guest Appearance
Danny Tunick Marimbas, Vibes
John Bollinger Drums
Catherine McRae Violin, Guest Appearance
Pamelia Kurstin Theremin
Peter Hess Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Contrabass Clarinet
Dan Coates Electric Bass, Sampling
Sarah Bernstein Violin, Guest Appearance
Peter Lettre Electric Bass, Electric Guitar, Upright Bass
Fiona Templeton Vocals, Guest Appearance
Technical Credits
Martin Bisi Engineer
John Zorn Executive Producer
Peter Cunningham Cover Photo
Paul Celan Composer, Author
Dan Kaufman Composer, Producer, Audio Production
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously