Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Electric Violin Album Duration Test

Mixed in with the gifts I've been picking up for others, I just got myself a copy of the recent recording of John Adams' Dharma at Big Sur and My Father Knew Charles Ives on the Elektra Nonesuch label. I haven't been through Charles Ives yet (or anyway been back through it for, um, non-promotional purposes, using an actual commercially-released CD) but Dharma at Big Sur is fun; it fits pretty well with a walk to the gym and back, both in terms of time and content. At very first blush the keening electric violin glissandi and use of just intonation never gel, and the music starts to drift dangerously close to new-agey Song of the Whales territory, as it tends to in Adams' less effective efforts... Still likeable, though, with a lot of the usual thrills and momentum. The Baltimore Symphony and Leila Josefowicz are performing it this spring (Marin Alsop conducting; always good to see a couple of female artists' names on the marquee at the same time) so hopefully I can make the not-as-far-as-you-start-to-think drive up the parkway to inform my opinion of the piece better.

My original point for this post, though, and the weirdest aspect of the album, is that Nonesuch split less than an hour of music across two CDs. (They do sell it at the standard one-disc price, which I suppose is kind of them.) At some point I should do a quick survey of my music collection and see which Nonesuch disc I have actually has the longest playing time (I'm guessing either one of the halves of their El Nino or the rerecorded Koyaanisqatsi soundtrack) but anyone who listens to a lot of their products is probably familiar with their apparent allergy to producing a CD with more than 45 minutes of music on it. Given that, this still seems very peculiar... They couldn't just put them together, kind of a one-for-the-price-of-one deal? Or fill out one of the discs with some additional material? Haven't they been sitting on a recording of Adams' Guide to Strange Places for something like three years? Even that added to the current release might clock in at under the 80 minute limit.

Anyway, strange recording practices, but decent music at least.


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