Thing of the Day

Dominique Leone's birthday present to Stravinsky

June 20th 2011

Stravinsky listeningLast Friday was the birthday of Igor Stravinsky... important? Oh yes - is there any more influential composer from the last 100 years?  Listen to The Rite Of Spring and you'll hear the debt owed by pretty much every film composer, (did John Williams really have to cough up money to the Stravinsky foundation for Star Wars etc, or is that a myth?) and don't even get me started on the way his freeing-up of rhythm put those ideas into generations of avant-garde, progressive and math rock music makers.  It's probably taken getting on to 100 years for his ideas to begin to become truly assimilated into rock and pop and western music and everything.  If you don't like 'classical music', it might be because you've been listening to the cute, happy stuff, the melodic equivalent of pop music (or you've tried the hard-boiled, really atonal 20th century composers, which can be an equal turn-off).  Stravinsky's earlier work, with it's balance of edgy tension, drive and hammering repetition and clear-cut, wild melodies, is instantly understandable by those of us brought up on rock... as could be seen by the numbers of longhairs and band members turning up for the Rite at the Proms in recent years.

With this in mind, here's a free download of a recording of Les Noces, by San Francisco based musician/composer Dominique Leone. This ballet has four parts, with an English language libretto, and the download is an album's worth of music.  It's not the most well-known of Stravinsky's work, but with its fabulous clear-cut complexity, thrilling rhythms and delicious harsh beauty it's understandably growing in popularity. 

The first version of Les Noces (the Village Wedding) was completed in 1917, another in 1919 which featured cimbaloms, pianola and harmonium in the arrangement, and the ballet finally premiered in 1923.  The long gestation period seems to have been partly to do with Stravinsky's attempts to use mechanical pianos at part of the orchestration... which may be why Dominique Leone's rendition, using modern recording gizmos, including treating his own voice to sing ALL the vocal parts, sound so RIGHT.  He's not re-arranged this, but kept as close as possible to the original score.  The result sounds stupendous, spookily close to the wilder offering of Magma, Ruins, Koenjihyakkei and the kicking the butts of all those avant-rock great-great-great grandchildren.

Not content with just a recording, Dominique Leone, with musicians and singers, will be performing Les Noces at July 29 & 30 at the Maybeck House in Berkeley, California.

 "Dominique is a ”classically trained” musician from Texas who currently operates out of Dom LeoneSan Francisco. He lists Brian Wilson, Claude Debussy, Randy Newman, Paul McCartney, Andy Partridge, Glenn Gould, ABBA, Miles Davis, Magma, and Olivier Messiaen as personal heroes... All of his music could be considered ”pop” of a sort, though usually with a dash of “prog”, “conceptual art” or “a really good tv theme”.  It’s catchy but ambitious; crafted but not sterile; interesting but not pretentious."
The unfinished 1919 version was performed for the first time in the Netherlands last year!

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