Philip Corner: Extreme Positions

The Barton Workshop

New World Records

Disc: 1
1. For 2 Trombones No. 2 13:26
2. Calling! OM 8:54
3. attempting whiteness 10:07
4. Round Sound 5:14
5. One Note More Than Once (A) 7:41
6. An Earth Bereath Trilogy: I 3:28
7. An Earth Bereath Trilogy: II 4:54
8. An Earth Bereath Trilogy: III 5:36
9. Big Trombone 9:27
10. One Note More Than Once (B) 8:44
Disc: 2
1. Zen Om 7:07
2. Just Another 12-Tone Piece 4:06
3. Sang-Teh, movement III 13:21
4. Passionate Expanse of the Law 11:30
5. Lovely Music 13:53
6. When They Pull the Plug: Part I 3:41
7. When They Pull the Plug: Part II 4:41
8. When They Pull the Plug: Part III 4:33
9. Chopin Prelude I: The V9 Chord Which Begins The Chopin D Major Prelude…as a revelation

I’ve known Philip Corner’s music for many years, but only the stuff he’s written for gamelan, of which I’m a big fan. This 2-disc set is a very nice overview of his work, spanning several decades, as performed by James Fulkerson and his colleagues with the Barton Workshop. The first disc contains works for brass with/without tape and/or piano, while the second disc has music for ensemble and also Corner’s 2002 piece When They Pull the Plug for percussion.

Corner has been active on many fronts over the years, including the Fluxus movement, Gamelan Son of Lion, and even the Judson Dance Theatre. His music comes out of a deep understanding of Eastern music, and while some works are notated “conventionally,” graphic notation and written instruction are used for many compositions. Thus, the music is largely indeterminate and improvised, based on the composer’s instructions.

Most of the music on this set is interesting for the various sounds elicited by the (mainly brass) instruments, and the use of tape collages, while characteristic of the early 60’s when such music was written, is intriguing. But I have to confess that it doesn’t work for me in the same way that, say, many of the works by Christian Wolff do. In other words, I found the music of interest, but not something that blew me away.

With one exception, however—Chopin Prelude I: The V9 Chord Which Begins The Chopin D Major Prelude… as a relevation. Conceived as a series of “revelation” pieces based on older works, this piece struck me as a very nice example of 60’s minimalism. Given that that’s my taste, it wasn’t surprising that this compositions stood out in my mind when I listened to this album over several days.

The performance is undoubtedly first rate and the musicians are incredibly dedicated. If you’re a fan of Corner’s music, this is an essential, must-have album.

3 Responses to “music from philip corner”
  1. Bill says:

    The Barton Workshop is an amazing group. Their version of John Cage’s ‘Seven’ is one of the greatest performances I’ve ever heard. I wonder if the material was lacking for this CD, or maybe just the inspiration?

  2. David Toub says:

    Not sure it was either—the Barton Ensemble is definitely an incredible group and their performances on these discs are first rate. And the music is certainly worth a listen. It didn’t really draw me in, for the most part, but that is more a reflection of my own tastes than anything else.

  3. Michael Asmara says:

    I know Philip for many years and I think he is a very spectacular composer in this century. What I love from his pieces is his dedication to the dissonant and his bravery to let the sounds and times goes free but not to be anarchy against the silences but both was growth in unity.

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