I had forgotten how exuberant Eighth Blackbird's performance of Coming Together is:
In yesterday's links, I managed to name Frederic Rzewski as the composer of I Am Standing in a Room. Of course, it's instead Alvin Lucier.
I must have been thinking of Rzweski's Coming Together as I was watching Lucier's I Am StandingSitting in a Room. Both are monumental works based on repeated text and both are arguably each composer's best work. But clearly they are rather different pieces.
Another strange thing about my slip is just last week, I bought the Lovely Records CD of Lucier's Sferics and his Music for Solo Performer. So you'd think I would be more Lucier-aware.
I should also mention that last week, I listened to a third work in this newly-formed repeated text trinity -- Steve Reich's Come Out.
Via The Standing Room links, a classic article by Michael Hiltzik in the LA Times mentions two of my favorite things -- Amoeba Records and Frederic Rzewski's Coming Together! The article talks about Amoeba's success in their new LA location; I don't know why but the record collecting community is more extensive down south. The writer also asks an Amoeba buyer about the Hungaraton recording of Rzewski's work:
Indeed, armed with a list of hard-to-find CDs from several genres, I was able to stump the Berkeley floor staff on only one, an obscure Hungarian recording of the ensemble piece "Coming Together/Attica" by composer Frederic Rzewski that I've been trying to replace for years.
Can't have my copy, sorry. And earlier this month, I too was at the Berkeley Amoeba and picked up a CD by Talujon Percussion, including an interesting rendition of Coming Together. It's an accented female voice:
I think the combination of age and a greater coming together is responsible for the speed of the passing time...
but the fast-driving piano line is instead performed on something that sounds like synthesized bass although the liner notes indicate all acoustic percussion except for "amplified cardboard tube." Since the text is repeated ad infinitum, the textual interpretation and style is important else monotony results. Birgit Staudt's recitation may not be definitive; still, the underlying accompaniment is clear, precise, and the diversity of percussion compelling.
And just this week in the NY Times, Allan Kozinn reviews the eighth blackbird recording of Rzewski's music, including Coming Together:
They have, for one thing, quickly identified the thread that runs through Mr. Rzewski's work: an almost organic current of narrative tension that makes this music pure drama.
I don't take my Amoeba trips for granted but if all goes well, I'll be in the Haight tomorrow for the Bitches Brew movie and in SoCal next year for that minimalism jukebox festival.
Sam Melville again:
There are doubtless subtle surprises ahead, but I feel secure and ready...
Joshua Kosman likes the latest Eighth Blackbird CD of music of Frederic Rzewski except for one performance:
The disappointment comes at the end, with "Coming Together," Rzewski's turbulent, provocative setting of a letter from Attica inmate Sam Melville. This is one of the great pieces of political art in the new-music repetoire, and the group's placid, adenoidal rendition turns it into a self-help mantra.
Pete Dako prefers Frederic Rzewski's Attica to his Coming Together and quotes a Robert Christgau review:
The design of "Coming Together" is simple, even minimal: Steve ben Israel reads and rereads one of Sam Melville's letters from Attica over a jazzy, repetitious vamp. Yet the result is political art as expressive and accessible as Guernica...
Coming Together was recorded on the recent Ear Unit CD. I actually prefer a nineties CD recording of the piece. However, I cannot place the CD and have not found it on the web; maybe it was on Wergo and features a German or Eastern European voice reading the letter?
In any case, Donna McCabe analyzes the piece and gives more about Sam Melville including that his original name was Samuel Grossman and that he was convicted of the 1969 Manhattan bombings, which were politically inspired. She discusses the sense of "timelessness" in the work.
The beginning of Melville's text:
I think the combination of age and a greater coming together is responsible for the speed of the passing time. it's six months now, and I can tell you truthfully few periods in my life have passed so quickly. I am in excellent physical and emotional health. There are doubtless subtle surprises ahead, but I feel secure and ready...
The Ear Unit liner notes state that he was one of the organizers of the Attica, New York prison riots later that year, when he was killed.