Featuring gritty spirituality and blistering performances from the electrifying Bang on a Can All-Stars. Prayers, incantations and miracle cures from edgy urbanites in search of the soul, with music by Glenn Branca, Arnold Dreyblatt, Michael Gordon, Phil Kline, and Julia Wolfe.
Number 1 CD of 2001 — Allan Kozinn, The New York Times
"The title for Believing came to me after the music had been written. During the time I was working on the piece I had been listening to a song by John Lennon called Tomorrow Never Knows. It's a fantastic song -- very psychedelic -- written at a time when the Beatles were exploring spiritual questions. You can hear it in the music and in the words. There's a line, "It is believing," that comes back again and again. Believing is such a powerful word -- full of optimism and struggle. It's hard to believe and it's liberating to believe. The music is very much written for the Bang on a Can All-Stars. It is my second piece for the group and I feel that I have really gotten inside their sound. 'Believing' was commissioned by NPR for a special Bang on a Can/Dutch exchange. I am very grateful for their support for this new work." – Julia Wolfe
"This performance of Escalator for the Bang on a Can All-Stars is one of the few occasions where my music has been played by an ensemble other than my own. The piece had its beginnings in a duet performance piece with percussionist Pierre Berthet in Belgium in 1988, and it has been performed in various transformations by The Orchestra of Excited Strings over the years. In 1986-87, I began working on a 'digital dynamic processing system' for a commission at 'Ars Electronica' in Linz in 1987 and further developed this in a residency at STEIM in Amsterdam in 1989. This system was triggered with recorded machine tracks and interacts with acoustic instruments. Its basis are recordings of the rhythms produced by a number of malfunctioning escalators on the Blvd. Ansbach in Brussels which I made in 1987. In this version of Escalator, composed in 1995, I notated repetitive rhythmic patterns found in these recordings and scored them for cimbalom, prepared electric guitar and cello, later adding layers of percussion, saxophone and prepared 'excited strings' bass in collaboration with the musicians." – Arnold Dreyblatt
I Buried Paul
"Strawberry Fields Forever ends with a false fadeout -- when the music returns its turned upside down -- nothing is as it was, and toward the real end John Lennon says 'I buried Paul.' When the record came out people in America went crazy trying to find other clues that Paul McCartney was really dead. DJs played Beatles records backwards on the radio, and as a result some very strange music -- and a lot of noise -- got broadcast. This piece is about that noise." – Michael Gordon
Glenn Branca came to world attention with his massive symphonies written for re-tuned electric guitars. He developed a unique sound palette, and with it a unique tuning theory based on the natural harmonic series up to the 128th partial. In order to play his music, Branca built a series of guitar and keyboard instruments with these special tunings. Movement Within features six of these instruments — three keyboards and three guitars. This is the first time an ensemble other than Branca's own has performed his microtonal music on his original instruments.
"The idea of program music always seemed odd to me, but when I began writing this piece I had a physical vision in my mind. My neighborhood, like many in New York, has a varied history - 100 years ago it was an exotic slum, 100 years before that another kind of exotic slum - and I was thinking of all these things happening at once, all these different people dancing in the street. So I thought of the title literally, like 'good looking corpses' who died young, or like Messiaen's piece - 'Glittering Bodies' - who were raised from the dead. 'Exquisite Corpses' was a surrealist parlor game, where one person would draw a head, fold the paper and hand it to the next person, who would draw the torso, etc. The completed picture was the exquisite corpse - but I wasn't really thinking about that when I originally conceived the piece. I'm very much a Macintosh composer: I used to have a real anti-technological attitude, but using the sequencer really influences the way I work. It gives back as much as any other artistic process, without compromise or loss of intensity, and in this case it directly led to some of the structural elements in this piece. With the sequencer as note processor I was able to move things around, take them out, put them back other places. I was connecting the knees to the neck, pulling out the head, so in the end I ended up playing Exquisite Corpses after all." – Phil Kline