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BRANT, HENRY: Volume 3
The last of the great American mavericks (though he is typically still left out where Partch, Cage, Harrisson and Nancarrow, who was strictly speaking Mexican, are routinely listed). Now in his nineties and still on top form, Brant is a pioneer and past master of spatialised music, always using multiple groups and orchestras distributed around, not in front of, the listener, and eschewing amplification or electronics. Recordings are necessarily reductions of course, stereo is the equivalent of a grainy black and white photograph, but these works easily survive that. There are three pieces here, The first, a new composition from 2004 - Wind, Water, Clouds and Fire - for 3 women's choruses, one children's chorus (all singing from the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci), a group of violins, 2 percussionists, 3 keyboards: piano, harpsichord and organ, harp and 6 trumpets. These are all distributed around St. John's Cathedral in groups, each playing together but independent from the others. They are co-ordinated only at their entry and exit by a central conductor. An excellent live recording. The second, Litany of Tides, is for 2 orchestras, 4 sopranos and solo violin - each pursuing its own unrelated compositional material (including snatches of other works played at the same concert). This is more extreme more radically disparate and much more dramatic than the first piece. The third, Trinity of Spheres, is for 3 orchestral groups, one large and mixed, the others smaller and divided into high and low frequency instruments. Wide separation is called for and each group again has its own conductor and its own musical programme, unrelated to that of the other groups. There are 15 events, each introduced by percussion. This is the rawest and most massive of the three works here; a rollercoaster ride filled with mystery, power and strangeness. Great.