April 19, 2012
Principal bass Nico Abondolo prepares a bottle for use in Crane Palimpsest. Photo LACO archives.
Gabriel Kahane has been said to do many things — cross genres, fuse pop and classical together, create the next generation of the musical — but no one can deny that the composer/performer has established himself as a creative force and unique voice in this brave new world of music.
He composes both classical and pop music, recently releasing Where are the Arms, his second pop music CD. Gabriel strays away from labels for his pop music as “classical-pop”, writing, “I have too much respect for the people writing what I consider to be “classical” music today to have my little pop confections considered as being in the same realm. This is not to say that I don’t think my pop music is of artistic value, but rather to say: let’s not kid ourselves by thinking that the presence of strings, woodwinds, and brass doth a classical record make.”
In a recent interview with KUSC’s Brian Lauritzen, Gabriel says he sees music today not as a world strictly segregated, but one where boundaries are crossed and sometimes where the dividing wall comes down. This is a movement that has occurred as far back as Bach, who included bawdy drinking songs in his Goldberg Variations and continued through Ives’s Three Places in New England (which LACO performs this weekend).
Gabriel’s most recent work, Crane Palimpsest, which receives its West Coast premiere under the baton of Gabriel’s father Jeffrey Kahane, attempts to explode the boundaries of pop music to the extent that the piece is no longer pop music, nor is it strictly classical. It juxtaposes selections from Hart Crane’s “To Brooklyn Bridge” with original text from Gabriel, trying to reconcile the two different styles through music. Gabriel uses a variety of instruments: piano, guitars, his voice and even beer bottles (LACO principal bass Nico Abondolo tests the bottles above) throughout the piece. Although commissioned by classical music ensembles, American Composer’s Orchestra and LACO, Crane Palimpsest does not strictly fall into the genre. Yet, it would not be perceived as pop music either. But, does music still need genres? Or, in our iPod age, have we reached the point of cross-genre composition creating not a new genre, but merely creating music to enjoy?