Henry Brant - The Henry Brant Collection, Volume 9
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Henry Brant
The Henry Brant Collection, Volume 9

As I mentioned in a previous review of work by Henry Brant, he was without a doubt a prolific composer. Proving me correct, and following closely on the heels of that last release is The Henry Brant Collection, Volume 9. And yet, while it follows closely in terms of release date, it's completely different musically, with three long, long pieces that all take a largely different route in reaching their destination. And really, it's not even about the destination with them, rather more about the journey itself.

"Dormant Craters" opens the release and to say that it's epic is probably an understatement. Clocking in at almost thirty-five minutes, the piece is constructed entirely for percussion, and it features sixteen different performers on everything from gamelan to orchestral percussion to steel drums and other hand percussion. Unfolding in waves, with minute, quiet pauses, it often sounds improvised, with waves of sound building in from only two players to ten or more banging away on their respective instruments. With everything from chimes to at times unrecognizable sounds clattering away, it's downright pretty in places, and almost disorienting in others. At over a half-hour in length, it's something that will either be the perfect backdrop to your anxious day or simply an endurance test.

The same could be said for most of the work on this long (over seventy-three minutes total running length) release. At only twelve minutes, "Ceremony" is the most structured and concise, having been composed in 1954 for the Bicentennial of Columbia University. Combining woodwinds, strings, piano, choir, and percussion, it's sort of a musical flow-chart of college life, with a lazy intro melting into a somewhat frenetic and anxious middle section before a more stately close.

"Homeless People" incorporates a string quartet, a prepared piano, and accordion, and the long (twenty-five minutes) is another half-inspired, half-disorderly piece that's dissonant and disorganized in places and slightly sweet in others. Musically much more adventurous (mostly more chaotic and less melodic) than Volume 8, this is another batch of outsider music from a highly-original American composer.

rating: 6.510
Aaron Coleman 2008-03-27 21:15:46