Album of the Day: Michael Gordon, “Weather”

Michael Gordon
Weather (Cd Nonesuch 79553-2)

Among the most prominent authors on the downtown New York composition scene, Michael Gordon is one of the founders, together with colleagues David Lang and Julia Wolfe, of the Bang on a Can festival, which in just over a decade has become one of the most prestigious events in the field of contemporary world music. Rock and jazz groups alternate with performers, improvisers, chamber groups and gamelan orchestras in a joyfully chaotic atmosphere characterized by a continuous release of energy, the same that we find in the works composed by Gordon.

His direct, uncompromising, abrasive language influenced by rock, punk, minimal music, jazz and Jewish popular tradition has a strong impact on listeners, who are soon hypnotized by the skill with which Gordon manages to tie together iterative microcells from marked rhythmic impulse (it is no coincidence that many of his scores have been used to create choreographies). Gordon also has a very personal taste for timbre; in his works the instruments are often used in an unusual way, sometimes radically distorted through electronics with sound saturation and feedback effects not dissimilar to those used by Jimi Hendrix.

Behind this musical rebel aspect lies an impeccably prepared author from a technical point of view (he studied at
Yale with Martin Bresnick), a great connoisseur of forms and capable of creating vast musical architectures such as this “Weather”, a piece for string ensemble (recorded by the excellent Ensemble Resonanz of Bonn) lasting an hour, born as a collaboration four hands with the videomaker Elliott Caplan.

Once the recording was finished, Gordon handed the tapes into the hands of producer Gregg Jackman, known for his work in the pop field (in Italy he worked with Pino Daniele) who independently added some sound effects and some electronic drum passages, with actually a bit trendy and superfluous.

Gordon's score certainly doesn't need these tricks to captivate the audience; right from the first bars of the cellos and double basses you are riveted by the listening thanks to the snappy rhythmic figures that weave together a network rich in strength, swing and very vivid colours.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.