Goldmund is Keith Kenniff, an American composer and musician mysteriously attuned, on this album at least (he also records indie-rock and ambient music), to the melodies of the Civil War-era United States-music that, according to his PR, "tied friends and families together in a time when the nation was being torn apart." With nothing more than a piano and an acoustic guitar, he resurrects "Dixie," "Shenandoah," "Amazing Grace," and 11 other contemporaneous songs in shatteringly ghostly renditions. As for his original "Ashoken Farewell," it fits.
Like that other great American Modernist, Wallace Stevens, Charles Ives was an insurance man. And surely his immersion in two radically unrelated realms goes as far in explaining his devotion to aural collage as his youthful exposure to multiple bands playing simultaneously in public squares. Composed approximately 100 years ago, these sonatas for violin and piano (minus, for some reason, No. 3's third movement) still sound ahead of their time even though (because?) hymns and "Jesus Loves Me" are among the folk melodies emerging from the bustle.
Conservatives who complain, understandably, that the realities of Sept. 11, 2001, get short media shrift will take comfort from this album's tripartite, 16-minute title suite-even conservatives who have previously had (or at least thought they had) no need for Steve Reich's brand of minimalism. Subtitled "9/11," "2010," and "WTC," the movements include fragmentary spoken narratives that heighten the music's re-creation of that day's horror. The pieces that follow, "Mallet Quartet" and "Dance Patterns," are reminders that, unbelievable though it still sometimes seems, life went on.
Taking just over an hour to play out, this album gathers every three-part sonata by the prolific and enduringly influential baroque English composer Henry Purcell, a composer who, on the strength of this music alone, might have Bach devotees re-gauging their allegiance. Exquisitely performed by this sub-group of England's Retrospect Ensemble, the pieces not only evoke the intensest elegance of the 17th century but also populate the firmament of that bygone world with glories as yet undiminished by the untethered, hubristic science to come.
"I want to create my own ... musical language," says the Polish composer Jacaszek on his website, "in which electronic manipulation of recorded sound is going to enrich traditional acoustic instruments. The motivation of these experiments is discovering the hidden and universal beauty." It makes perfect-even sacred-sense, then, that on Glimmer (Ghostly Int'l), his latest album, he should turn to the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins for inspiration.
Jacaszek could have been less subtle: Without footnotes, only English majors are likely to recognize the song titles "Goldengrove," "As Each Tucked String Tells," and "Evening Strains to Be Time's Vast" as allusions to the poems "Spring and Fall," "As Kingfishers Catch Fire," and "Spelt from Sibyl's Leaves," respectively. But even poetry-indifferent listeners will feel in Jacaszek's mixture of grinding and glittering effects something of what Hopkins, with his obsessively frictional assonance, was after-namely, to rub the accumulated grime of indifference from the Word, who in the beginning was.