A LITTLE SPICE TO LIFE…Steve Reich: Music for 18 Musicians, Jerome Kitzke: The Character of American Sunlight

If you want some modern music that’s a bit more challenging than the standard jazz fare, but not overwhelming in cacophony, give these two discs a try.

Where is Grand Valley State University? Would you believe Michigan? Believe it! They have a New Music Ensemble there, directed by Bill Ryan. He takes on the music of Steve Reich, a XI sectioned suite (with two “Section IIIs)  that is bookended by a pair of “Pulses.” The music is a mix of modern ambience with a touch of Aaron Copland, with each piece supported by a gently incessant and repetitive, but not irritating, rhythmic drive. Each “Section” is supplemented by things like gently chirping of piano and  percussion, a caressing bounce of marimba or vibes and even some lovely caresses of soft bowing of cello and violin. Reeds softly gurgle and some ethereal voices add to the atmosphere, mixing background sounds not unlike Brian Eno on a good day.

Jerome Kitzke, on the other hand, puts together a rotating ensemble of voices that include himself along with Nicole Rose, Theo Blackmann and Wendy Luck along with Michael Lowenstern/bc, Allen Won/ts, Charles Tomlinson/b and Barbara Merjan/dr as well as a string section, with the larger ensembles such as “We Need to Dream All This Again” and “A Keening Wish” conducted by Bradley Lubman. The  music is a mix of spontaneous creativity and carefully constructed chaos. Of the former, Kirzke plays the toy  piano, stomps his foot and does some vocal gymnastics on “The Animist Child” while he teams up with Guy Klucevsek/acc on the elegiac “Breath and Bone.” The larger ensembles can range from a kinetic whirlwind (“Mad Coyote Madly Sings”) to the percussive and expressive title track, with a death march during with chants on “We Need to Dream…” thrown in for good measure. Even some poetry by Allen Ginsberg gets some musical support, so the adventures never end on this one.

Innova Records


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