It is a relief to hear
such a fine musician possessing a completely fresh approach to composition
involving a great sense of humour with a total grip on reality.
The best example of this is ironically the first work from which
the CD gets its name - 1985. Two friends of Lowenstern's
performed a set of taped interviews with kids from his old high
school asking them what they thought of Mike Lowenstern. As he writes,
'I was, to put it gently, unpopular'. Spoken word is either interspersed
or superimposed with bass clarinet, synthesized keyboard/original
sounds and percussion accompaniment with a strong jazz and minimalist
modal influence. The structure and timing of all components is such
that the work presents itself as very listenable contemporary music.
King Friday is
a work inspired by the outrageous statement made by a certain Mr.
Richard Stolzman (yes the one and the same) commenting on the bass
clarinet as 'Found mostly in bands; it's pretty obscure and hard
to play. There really isn't much call for it'. For bass clarinet
and CD, King Friday explores a large range involving very
quick and wide leaps with at times a hard core Techno-backing with
some great additional original sounds. I think someone should apologise.
A particular eclectic
group of works - all originals or collaborations, except for Coming
Together by Frederic Rzewski (1972), each has a definitive purpose
John Lennon and Paul
McCartney make a guest appearance with Lowenstern's beautiful jazz/quasi-gospel
arrangement of Blackbird for what I can hear as maybe 3 bass
clarinets and solo Bb clarinet with what I thought at first was
brush snare drum accompaniment. It's Michael on amplified bass
clarinet making the sound with his breath and tongue - the occasional
slap tongue gave it away. Clever guy!!
Lowenstern's gift for
composition is evident as is his talent as a clarinet/bass clarinettist.
His overall dedication to contemporary music is exemplary especially
in At the Refrain based on John Coltrane's After the Rain.
The process in evolving this work to its present performance included
writing a computer program to count and register every note Coltrane
played, ordering the notes from most frequently played to least.
The information is then used to structure the improvisation of the
bass clarinet. As mathematical as it sounds, the end result is completely
free sounding composition with instantaneous appeal.
Last reviewed in this
magazine by Michael Lowenstern was SPASM - New World Records 80468-2,
his first solo recording. Both CDs can be ordered online at www.earspasm.com/shop
with free downloadable MP3 recordings, sheet music and fingering
charts. This is an amazing, inspiring work. Do not miss out on the
opportunity to hear this."