Sunday, June 16, 2013

Death Speaks To No One

Music of David Lang
Shara Worden (vocals), Bryce Dessner (guitar), Owen Pallett (violin), Nico Muhly (piano)
Cantaloupe Music

Our unending fascination with death grants a great latitude to artists that create works on this theme. With requiems, they range from Verdi’s bombast through the gentle benedictions of Fauré’s to the soothing abstractions of the medievalists. In this last mode, death speaks, David Lang’s song cycle on his album of the same name, the text is a compilation of fragments of phrases from Schubert lieder where the singer assumes the voice of Death personified. One wonders, what can the composer know of this and how successful is his expression? He calmly invites us to a beautiful place of light – of comfort – of joy. The musical language stripped to the simplest harmonies; melodic shapes and small intervals, supported by a monochromatic sonic backdrop of repetitive phrases unique to each song; show the composer absenting himself so his audience can meditate the more deeply on his message.