Sunday, March 28, 2010

In Praise of Kyle Gann

Outside of a few favorite Bob Dylan albums and the two or three close listenings to recordings of the performances I give to each of the performances of the  Kenwood Players, I very rarely listen to CD's. My recently purchased Kyle Gann's The Planets is a major exception. In the past several weeks I've listened to it over and over again.

Kyle Gann is some kind of savant masquerading as a musicologist, composer, critic and blogger. I've been following his blog PostClassic for years. He has an astonishing gift for talking about music in such a way as to expand one's notions of what music is and can be. 

He's a big believer in not talking about specific music unless you can hear it, so always has a downloadable example of whatever he's talking about. I'm on rural dial-up, but always take the time to download his examples. 

He's recently come out with a CD release of something he's been working on for years, The Planets for the Relâche ensemble. Turns out he can write music as well as writing about it.

One reason I don't listen to CD's is that after several listenings, most loose their freshness. A frequent finding of the brain researchers is that we want music to go in unexpected directions at least some of the time, and after several listenings to any particular CD, we remember what is does and where it goes, so it becomes less interesting over time. 

The Planets has an accessible surface, but has deep complexity right below the surface, so that upon repeated listenings, there is (so far) always more to be heard, which is very refreshing.

Here is a link to the CD, with links to brief samples. There's lots to say about it, but so far, for me, it's that "new music" I kept seeking but not finding back in the 60's, 70's and 80's. There are all kinds of ways for music to be new and fresh without a lot of the épater le bourgeoisie behaviour that contaminated so much of the music back then. 


  1. Anonymous13/4/10 20:37

    Great review. Thank you Lyle.

  2. Andreas - Thanks for the comment, and thanks for producing such a fine CD. Haven't stopped listening to it. Was intrigued by Kyle mentioning on his blog he's doing a full orchestration. Besides wondering how he has the time and energy to do everything he does, wonder what that would sound like. One of the joys of the current CD is how he takes that weird group of instruments into all kinds of places and textures.