Entertainment :: Music

Shelter

by Steven Bergman
Contributor
Thursday Apr 11, 2013
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"Shelter," a multi-media exploration of what comprises the term, was composed by the team of Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe, and was commissioned for The Next Wave Festival by the Brooklyn Academy of Music, receiving its world premiere in 2005. Now the piece is available digitally, under the producing eye of frequent Philip Glass collaborator and conductor, Michael Reisman, in conjunction with Cantaloupe Music, and performed by the New York-based Ensemble Signal, led by their founders, conductor Brad Lubman, and cellist Lauren Radnofsky.

The first "movement" of the seven pieces that make up, "Shelter" is titled, "Before I Enter," and begins with the sparse unison vocals of singers Martha Cluver, Mellissa Hughes and Caroline Shaw ("Before I enter my house / I touch the doorframe / before I enter my house / I bow"). But keep your hand on the volume control: the music soon varies between the crystalline vocals of the singers and a bombastic assault of strings and brass, particularly on the tracks, "Is the Wind" and the recording’s concluding track, "What We Build."

The lyrics of the work range from the cultural diversity of what "Shelter" means: from "I kiss my fingers and pat the scroll," to "I punch in a code on a key pad," (also from "Before I Enter") to the mechanics of building the "American Home" ("reinforced steel - 1000 feet / lumber - 1000 2x10’s, 2x6’s, 2x4’s") to our jealousy and envy about our neighbor’s domiciles ("I want to live where you live"); all against an atonal battering of sound performed by the Ensemble Signal, a flexible-sized new-music group specializing in offering "the broadest possible audience accessibility to a diverse range of music." The musicianship of the performers is wonderful, but the work occasionally approaches overbearing, with (purposeful) splattering in the brass, and guitar accents that strengthen the contemporary flavor of the composition. This recording is strictly for the aficionado of "new-music," and those looking to expand their horizons within the genre.

"Shelter"
Michael Gordon / David Lang / Julia Wolfe / Ensemble Signal
CD and digital formats
Cantaloupe Music

Steven Bergman is a Composer / Playwright / Performing Arts Educator based outside of Boston, MA.

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