LARS GRAUGAARD: Venus
09 January 2016
Steve HoltjeDanish composer Lars Graugaard
(b. 1957) created all four works here for these New York University groups - he became Visiting Faculty Artist at NYU in 2010 but, far from being a stuffy academic, he incorporates electronics/computers and sometimes performs as Lars from Mars. Venus
, the album's "title track," is the most intriguing; written for solo violin (Patti Kilroy), double-bass (Patrick Swoboda), electronics, and orchestra (conducted by Jens Georg Bachmann), it creates a mysterious world unto itself. Book of Throws
, "for ensemble and improvising piano soloist," is a progression of orchestral eruptions through and over which the pianist, jazzman Jean-Michel Pilc, threads his way with no prior knowledge of what the ensemble will be playing, even though their music, unlike his own, is completely notated. Layers of Earth
, for oboe, interactive computer, and percussion ensemble, demands the oboist (Ian Shafer) produce otherworldly timbres (even by the standard of oboe; I wonder whether sometimes it's electronically mutated); built, it seems, in cellular fashion, it finds the soloist fighting free of the surrounding textures to soar rhapsodically at times, but the metallic timbres of the percussion also enthrall. Three Places
, with no soloists, is an ensemble piece of three contrasting moods, he says; they seem defined by timbres - flutes swooping like flocks of birds, percussion chittering like insects, etc.
This is all pretty far out in terms of structuring sounds across time with little or no relationship with past styles of music, yet not abrasive or hard to listen to as long as you're willing to forego easy melodies, tonality, and steady rhythm. I find it positively riveting.