Albums of the Year Part 1
The purpose of this site is to be a bit personal but also a bit professional at the same time. I can't always keep a distinction between the two, and I've always felt it to be a little bit rude if you're trying to hide yourself behind some professional facade just to try to not burn bridges for monetary reasons.
Either way, this first post is going to cover my top albums of the past year. This will cover quite a landscape of different musical genres. I'll be covering the albums alphabetically rather than numerically. I've had an increasing difficulty assigning scores on a numerical value.
Always, to start here is our first album:
Absolute Jest & Grand Pianola Music
John Adams, Michael Tilson Thomas, and the San Francisco Symphony
Absolute Jest, and Grand Pianola Music, are influenced by two somewhat disparate sources.
Stravinsky's Pulcinella was the first work to be considered. Adams was inspired from the story of Diaghliev coming to the composer with these various Neoploitan tunes that he wasn't familiar with in the slightest. Stravinsky wove them together to form Pulcinella. Adams did the same with Beethoven's work to create both works featured on the album.
Absolute Jest focuses on the more constructive and deconstructive aspects of Beethoven's symphonic and chamber works. Similar to Girl Talk (Greg Michael Gillis), in his approach to composition, he uses small familiar motifs and layers them together. An example might be the dotted rhythm that makes up the scherzo of the 9th symphony, combined with the first theme of his Eroica Symphony. The exact genre of the piece is a bit weird as well, being composed for String Quartet and orchestra. The only piece I can think of like this is Vaughn-Williams' Variations on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, but even that piece is for string orchestra rather than full orchestra. It's honestly a genre I would have assumed would have been covered more in full.
Grand Pianola Music is scored for two pianos and orchestra. Similar to Absolute Jest it is a reference to other works that have come before. The idea came in two parts to Adams in a dream. The first dealt with driving on a high way and coming across two pianos that were playing in E-flat and B-flat at the same time. This section is referenced in the piece as the "dominant divide." The other section deals with Adams walking through an endless hallway full of people practicing piano. The idea of different concertos playing concurrently lead to the idea of two pianos playing simultaneously. The work seems much older compared to the new work. However, Adams as a conductor makes the piece work much better than some parts might suggest it be.