Local Voices

They’re still making discs, and probably always will. Here is EMI’s disc of the threee Stravinsky Symphonies done by Simon Rattle and his Berlin Philharmonic people – keen, incisive, aloof music-making, something of the perfect machine. I’m even happier that the small companies persist, that our own Gloria Cheng has made a splendid disc for TelArc and that a local composer named Matt McBane – yes, he happens to be a friend, and his Mom grows the best blackberries I’ve ever tasted – has made a disc of his music that I can’t stop listening to, on an even smaller label called New Amsterdam.
   Gloria is a matter of local pride. . If you go to three new-music concerts, she’ll have played at two of them. Instead of disappearing into the New York morass she works hard at creating a Los Angeles awareness; this new disc should help in this regard. Its composers – Witold Lutoslawski in particular, but also Steve Stucky and Esa-Pekka Salonen – were and are transients to some degree, but their music is also locally important. Hearing nearly an hour of  their music, their colors nicely shaped by Cheng who, after all, has lived close to all of it for some time, yo can’t help sensing some kind of common language and, above all, a huge, bursting vitality that says something about Los Angeles music-making, to its greater Gloria. The works by Salonen – Yta II, a show-off piece from 1985 against the Dichotomie of 2000 – encapsulate the emergence of a compositional wisdom.
    Matt McBane got out of USC a couple of years ago and hasn’t stopped. He headed for New York, gathered some players around him – he’s a violinist and the others are also string players or percussionists. They called themselves Build, and the stuff Matt and the others concocted is an attractive meld of – well, I’m not sure; it’s a kind of chamber music, sort of jazzy, and kicky, and one piece on this disk is just simply pretty, what a boy might compose for his Mom just for Reassurance. Matt also runs a festival on the California Coast, in Carlsbad; the ensembles that come include the Calder Quartet and So Percussion, and some of what they performed last summer was this same nondescript, very attractive, and very pleasing to Moms. I’m not a Mom, and I had the feeling at Carlsbad last summer that I was accepting the up-front seduction of this music more easily than I should. And it’s the same with this new disk also called, simply,  “Build.” Sometimes you can’t help yourself.
DOWNLOAD: Go to www.bobedwardsradio.com and download Bob Edwards’ conversation with Greil Marcus on Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” – the song and Marcus’ book about it.  The broadcast date was July 20, 2005, on XM Radio; it’s still available. . I downloaded it at the time, and return to it often as the most insightful broadcast conversation I have ever heard. I played it again today, for no particular reason.  I only installed XM Satellite Radio (in my car) to listen to Bob Edwards’ interviews.