Igor Stravinsky: Canticum Sacrum, “Illi autem profecti”
This past summer I dug into Stravinsky’s late sacred works and haven’t been able to stop listening. Threni, Requiem Canticles, and Canticum Sacrum are all in heavy rotation. (As is the secular Agon.) I’m especially fond of this track, the final movement of Canticum Sacrum. I really appreciate that it can be alternately solemn, ebullient, pious, and profane in that very Stravinskian way.
Karim Sulayman: Songs of Orpheus
(Claudio Monteverdi: “Vi Ricarda o bosch’ ombrosi” from L’Orfeo)
Then I started listening to the music that influenced Stravinsky’s later works: Landini, Gesualdo, Monteverdi. One particular album that I can’t stop listening to is Karim Sulayman’s Songs of Orpheus; his singing is so personal, moving, and polished, and the material just can’t be beat.
Valentin Silvestrov: Silent Songs, “I Met You”
I’ve long admired the music that Valentin Silvestrov has been composing out in Ukraine, particularly in its more understated incarnations. But I wasn’t prepared for this deeply moving set of songs for baritone and piano. I think most people probably think of me as a composer of loud music, and certainly the two works on the Miller portrait fall into this category. But there is also a thread in my work that explores very quiet sounds. This recording spoke to that side of me.
Scott Walker: “Jolson and Jones”
Scott Walker’s album The Drift is full of music that shouldn’t work, but does, brilliantly. It carves unnerving beauty from sheer existential dread. I return to it regularly, especially this track, “Jolson and Jones,” which takes just the most ridiculous idea—“let’s sample a donkey”—and turns it into pure terror. I think it is genius. His death last month was a huge loss for music.
Hermann Nitsch: Symphony No. 9, “The Egyptian”: I. Gewaltige Explosion
I discovered Hermann Nitsch by mistake, wandering around Ubuweb seeing what there was to see. But since encountering it, I keep coming back. His Orgien-Mysterien-Theater works—which he conceives, directs, and scores—are definitely not for everyone (and possibly not for anyone). They are violent, blasphemous, and gruesome. But there is something in his exploration and deconstruction of Catholic icons and ritual, and his pursuit of something like transcendence, that keeps bringing me back.
Gloria Coates: Symphony No. 1, “Music on Open Strings”: I. Theme and Transformation
I’ve been working my way through the terrific catalog of Gloria Coates, one of our great symphonists. There is something mysterious in her work that speaks (to me) of suffering and redemption—ideas I’ve been exploring a lot in my recent work.
Living Colour: “Ausländer”
Living Colour was one of the most important rock bands to me as a kid, and Vivid was among the first albums I ever owned. The album Stain from 1993 has been in heavy rotation in my car over the last few months. Featuring the still-current line up—the phenomenal Vernon Reid, Corey Glover, Will Calhoun, and Doug Wimbish—Stain addresses issues like immigration, racism, sexual politics, and police violence. From one angle, the album was ahead of its time (if occasionally lyrically problematic today). From another, it calls us all to account to how little progress we’ve made. In either case, it is notable.