Daniel Kobialka, violin; Machiko Kobialka, tack piano I; James Barbagallo, tack piano II; Patricia Jennerjohn, celesta; Don Marconi, percussion; Jerome Neff, percussion; Robert Hughes, conductor; Scott L. Hartman, French horn; Susan Bates, violin; Lou Harrison, suling player; Gamelan Sekar Kembar; Kronos Quartet; The Manhattan Percussion Ensemble; Paul Price, conductor
Lou Harrison (1917-2003) believed fervently in music's power to create cultural bridges. To this end he applied his prodigious skills and creative energies to creating syncretic works that link diverse musical languages. Faulted at times for his eclecticism, Harrison responded with a vibrant defense of hybridity, cultivating a musical multiculturalism long before that term--or even the concept--held the currency it now enjoys.
Harrison's major contributions to twentieth-century American music lie in three main areas: (1) the development of the percussion ensemble as a viable performance medium; (2) the linkage of Asian and Western musical styles; and (3) the exploration of just intonation tuning systems. All three are represented in the works on this disc.
The influences manifest in the works on this disc remained with Harrison for the rest of his career. He ultimately composed over three dozen gamelan pieces and the estampie became one of his favorite forms (he used it in a dozen works, ranging from solo keyboard to full orchestra). Nor did his advocacy of just intonation systems diminish: he called for pure intervals in works in all genres. But the most distinctive characteristic of Harrison's music lies in its inherent plurality. He was drawn to community, both in performance groups such as the gamelan and the percussion ensemble, and in the compositions themselves, which unite elements from various times and places. Harrison's originality lay in the way he creatively combined these elements to produce novel syntheses. His fervent advocacy of hybridity led to a type of transethnic music that truly foreshadowed the post-modern celebration of diversity.
The reissue of this long-unavailable release from the CRI catalog features extensive new liner notes by Harrison biographer Leta Miller.
Concerto in Slendro (1961), Main Bersama-Sama (1978), Threnody for Carlos Chavez (1979), Serenade for Betty Freeman and Franco Assetto (1978), String Quartet Set (1978-9), Suite for Percussion (1942)
ReviewsStarting with the 1961 Concerto in Slendro (the last word being a specific Indonesian scale), Harrison begins a romance with gamelan that would last the rest of his life. This work is written for an ensemble in just intonation that evokes the sound of the Indonesian gong orchestra, but Main Bersama-Sama, Threnody for Carlos ChÃ¡vez, and Serenade for Betty Freeman (all from 1978“79) are each a concerto movement respectively for horn, violin, and suling (Javanese flute), accompanied by a real gamelan that Harrison purchased and directed. The 1961 piece has exceptional exuberance, and the three gamelan pieces are truly sweet in their temperament”achingly tender and fluid melodies, which somehow don't grow old despite the heavy repetition the form requires.