by Andy Hamilton


The Dutch had Total Football, and Kitty Brazelton has Total Music. There are few musical styles and genres that she hasn't absorbed or embraced. Her 70s group Musica Orbis mixed medieval plainchant with free jazz and acid rock - I'd love to have heard how - while her 90s ensemble Hildegurls interpreted Hildegard von Bingen. Her current project What Is It Like To Be A Bat? - at a guess named for a treatise by philosopher Thomas Nagel - is a "digital chamber punk band". Eclectic isn't up to the job of containing the breadth of her creativity, hence Kyle Gann's term "totalist", or "21st century schizoid music". Consisting of pieces dating from the last decade, the disc's title work, Sonata For The Inner Ear, is a three-movement octet written for The California Ear Unit. Though they could have usefully dug in more in the heavily improvised second movement, I now regret that I once described them as The California Airhead Unit. The Sonata is a "triptych offering a trilateral view of a large oceanic instrumental group as it makes its way through the musical plankton or micro-nutrients of two musical motives" - yeah, toss 'em the goldfish food, mama.

If The Ear Unit is an alt.classical ensemble, The Manhattan Brass Quintet is made up of jazz players, which gives a definite identity to their interpretation of Come Spring!. This piece is strangely reminiscent of Third Stream, the 50s jazz-classical fusion attempted by such as Gunther Schuller and George Russell, but with touches of Franz Koglmann's Viennese Pipetet. Maybe Brazelton's husband, jazz writer and Wire contributor Howard Mandel, had some influence here. Shorter pieces include the more subdued, modernist work Sonar Como Una Tromba Larga for Chris Washburn's trombone and sampled soundscape. With Brazelton, not all the music is in the score, and it's good to hear jazz players bringing their special strengths to interpreting classical composition. You might wonder how someone's musical appetite can be quite so voracious, but the results are anarchic, wacky and hard to resist.

related links:

"Chamber Music for the Inner Ear"

Other CDs by Kitty Brazelton

CRI (Composers Recordings Inc.)

Kitty Brazelton, composer

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