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|Paul Elwood||Primary Artist, Banjo, Vocals, 5-string Banjo|
|John Hartford||Banjo, Fiddle|
|Hank Roberts||Cello, Vocals|
|Stephen Drury||Piano, Conductor|
|Ilana Davidson||Soprano (Vocal)|
|Matthew Combs||Fiddle, Mandolin|
|John Hartford||Original Material|
|Paul Elwood||Composer, Producer|
|Stephen Drury||Artistic Director|
Posted June 24, 2011
This CD and its' composer are more than a bit of a mystery-in fact, I am completely baffled --- in a, 'I can't believe he did that' good way. At first, the musical style is vaguely reminiscent of the more theatrical works of David Del Tredici or John Cogliano blending lowbrow nakedness with highbrow cerebral gymnastics. But Mr. Elwood takes it a step farther, fusing raw Appalachian Hillbilly music with the first 50 years of the 20th Century without really adjusting or accommodating either style. What ensues is the campiest of Charles Ives, dinner theatre music ever recorded-which often seems like a series of scored sketch-comedy routines strung together with wild abandon. There seems to be as little continuity in the vertical harmonic or orchestration structure as there is in the horizontal structure-which, in a good way, I say, "I can't believe he did that"!!. Never have I heard a more 'compartmentalized', schizophrenic rendering of sound.
The CD is broken up between simple short Appalachian folk songs played masterful by the composer and his cohorts and the before mentioned larger chamber orchestra works. In the short songs, Elwood's banjo playing is full of color, timbral surprises and strong rhythmic sense, but something is going sideways when you start hearing a Biwa jamming overtop.
The first large orchestra piece,' in the Zone ',for banjo fiddle and chamber orchestra. is the least shocking of the 'serious' works. It starts with drone-like orchestration, under a the fiddle solo, then banjo solo-then sudden Chinese gongs and voila! we're in a intersection of Chinese and Appalachian music in a kind of dream-like soup. Occasional giant harmonic surges from the strings become Messiaen-like underpinning for a banjo obbligato part. Then, out of the blue, a brief waltz intro from the piano becomes like a second theme, which drifts into more Messiaen-like piano writing, which veers into further 20th orchestral repertoire language,
That was child's play. 'Stanley Kubrick's mountain home' is the real shocker for soprano, small chamber orchestra and banjo hill-billyness. It is as if someone added a weird 50's sci-fi movie soundtrack (with opera soprano !!!), to the soundtrack of 'A Mighty Wind' . The music seems completely disconnected with almost no transitions, like one of those online piece where someone writes 16 measure, someone else the next 32m. etc. It was later I read the composer's startling formal rational for how the piece was put together. --Something to do with the timings of Kubrick's 2001(hence the title)- talk about 'I Ching' music. I guarantee, right now, John Cage and Charles Ives are in heaven, drinking corn whiskey together, saying, "I can't believe he did that"!!!Hiccup