The Death of Don Juan
Elodie Lauten, composer
Elodie Lauten, Peter Zummo, Randi Larowitz, Bill Raynor, Steven Sauber, Arthur Russell, performers
This is a reissue of an LP from 1985 of Lauten’s seminal postminimalist work, and it’s a pleasure to hear after all these years. While technically an opera (or rather, a “neo-opera”) in the same way that Glass’s Einstein is an opera, The Death of Don Juan is perhaps best described as a multimedia happening. In the end, it doesn’t matter what one calls it—the music is pretty compelling and the performance is definitive.
The libretto was written by Elodie Lauten and relates to “timeless Don Juan archetype (staged as an unseen character, screen character or a multiple) facing death in the form of a woman, with a complex emotional, sexual, political and spiritual subtext that addresses concerns of our time” The music is programmed from a matrix created by Lauten (The Scale of Number Seven(, but I’m not sure any of this is critical to experiencing the music. So what does the music sound like? Some of it reminded me of the best of Laurie Spiegel, and even part of Reich’s Electric Counterpoint, while other parts sounded like nothing else. In the end, however, the music defies description since it doesn’t fall into a neat package. And that’s to its credit—this is music to be listened to and experienced. I suspect that the work comes across differently in live performance, since it is an opera, after all. However, the music is very remarkable on its own, and I recommend anyone interested in minimalist or postminimalist music pick up this album.