Relâche completed its first season in residence at the Penn Museum on June 1, 2014. The 3-part series “New Sounds and Cinema” featured music commissioned by Relâche and vintage silent films with live accompaniment. Here is a link to a review of our final two performances, “Scott’s Twilight and Hitchcock’s Lodger.”
The November 2013 program featured French silent comedies plus some of our favorite commissions, and the February 2014 program featured our own arrangement of music to accompany Buster Keaton’s “The General,” plus the title tracks, our commission from Paul Lansky, of our new CD, “Comix Trips.” (see our merchandise page.)
Music: Kyle Gann – The Planets (10 movements)
Video: John Sanborn
This live music and video tour-de-force features Kyle Gann‘s magnum opus The Planets – a large-scale, ten-movement suite commissioned by Relâche. Gann says “my justification for writing my own such piece is this: music has not progressed since Holst, in the sense of having improved, the new superceding the old – but astrology has. My Planets may be better, may be worse, but their raison d’etre is that they are more suggestive of contemporary astrology than Holst’s.” Director John Sanborn explores science, history and mythology in his dazzling video portrait of Gann’s music.
“This music is intensely difficult to perform but Gann and Relâche never make it difficult to hear. The surface is attractive and approachable and repeated listenings reveal a web of clockwork structures that madly spin forth in a way that would make Bach jealous” (Jay Batzner, Sequenza21.com).
“The astrological ideas suggested the moods, and Gann’s witty style shaped music that is built of tingly sounds, intricate metrical joining, and compelling movement. The ensemble craftily blurs the distinction between dance music and something much more serious… Gann has a sense of wit that keeps everything just beyond expectations, and always with an oblique sense of phrase. We could almost sing that theme – not quite – and be just a little wrong in predicting where the music would take us… The ensemble is so at home in new gestures and conflicting inner workings that the music sounded simple, expressive, wryly descriptive, and cheerfully edgy” (Daniel Webster, Philadelphia Inquirer).
Sonic Cinema: Les Films Muets
Classic French silent films with new musical scores commissioned and performed live by Relâche:
The Mystery of the Rocks at Kador (dir. Léonce Perret) with new score by Régis Huby
Max Takes a Picture with new score by Chuck Holdeman
Be My Wife (dir. Max Linder) with new score by Chris McGlumphy
This live music and film experience features The Mystery of the Rocks of Kador (1912, dir. Léonce Perret) with new score by Régis Huby, a French composer and jazz violinist known for his recordings on the ECM label. This Hitchcockian murder mystery is notable for complex plot and camera-work that’s ahead of its time. The program also includes two Max Linder shorts with new scores by Chuck Holdeman and Chris McGlumphy. French comic actor Linder (1883-1925) was a pioneer of silent film who predated and influenced more well-known comedians including Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.
“The ever-provocative Relâche ensemble found power in anachronism in “Les Films Muets”… The 44-minute Kador has beautiful seaside shots… any plot thickening was treated with intensified rhythm from the rock-influenced score by French violinist/composer Regis Huby. Generally, it was a smart network of ostinatos, wind solos, and rhythmic patterns whose interaction was fluidly adjusted to accentuate the emotional temperature of any given scene… The program’s second half was short comedies by Max Linder… With faces came melodies in the excellent, pop-flavored score by Chris McGlumphy” (David Patrick Stearns, Philadelphia Inquirer).
Paul Lansky – Comix Trips
Randall Woolf – Canine State of Mind
Galen Brown – Waiting in the Tall Grass
Raymond Scott – Powerhouse
Raymond Scott – The Penguin
Raymond Scott – Twilight in Turkey
This concert program features commissions from Relâche’s most recent CD. The music is fun, but also extremely virtuosic. Paul Lansky has long been known for his computer music and was famously sampled by Radiohead on their Kid A album. Lately, he’s received praise from the NY Times and others for his acoustic compositions, like Comix Trips, which takes its inspiration from famous comic strips and characters like Peanuts, Captain Marvel, Alfred E. Newman, and Little Orphan Annie. Randall Woolf and Galen Brown are both post-modern composers who are hard to categorize. Each combines electronics and digital processing with traditional instruments, and incorporates techniques most often found in rock music, but in strikingly different ways and with radically different results. Raymond Scott was an inventor of electronic musical instruments, a composer and bandleader. You’ll recognize his Powerhouse (the assembly line music) from countless Bugs Bunny cartoons.
“Lansky’s Comix Trips… contains many worlds within worlds. Each movement is ostensibly based on a comic strip character, the “Good Grief” one being my favorite: It has long descending lines for the wind instruments, brusque out-of-key piano flourishes, and ongoing percussion commentary – all gently, constantly morphing with great compositional refinement. As usual, Relâche played with great comprehension. It also rocked” (David Patrick Stearns, Philadelphia Inquirer).
“Saturday night at The Andy Warhol museum turned out to be one of the most enjoyable concerts I’ve gone to in some time. It was a brilliant and fun performance by Philadelphia’s Relâche. Despite how close this group’s haunts are, and that I have listened to its discs over the years, I never realized just what amazing musicians they are. Most contemporary ensembles don’t have the, well, ensemble, that Relâche showed. They were tight the way an orchestra is tight and it really made the music come alive. Paul Lansky’s “Comix Trips” benefited by the treatment, especially the second movement’s emotional surge” (Andrew Druckenbrod, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).
“Quite entertaining were arrangements of works by Raymond Scott, a composer and conductor of the jazz-swing-big band era. “Twilight in Turkey,” “Penguin,” and “Powerhouse” were gleeful, the original tunes of which were used in Looney Tune cartoons. In addition to writing music for his own band and jingles, he also created the electronium, an early attempt at using artificial intelligence to create music. With such a history, Scott’s giddy music was a match for Relâche and its animated musicians” (John Shulson, Virginia Gazette).