Michael Mantler

Michael Mantler: Many Have No Speech

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Many Have No Speech is a bleak song cycle of sorts, with Mantler setting the texts of Samuel Beckett, Ernst Meister, and Philippe Soupault to music in a series of 27 short (sometimes exceedingly short) pieces. These are sung by the intriguing trio of Jack Bruce, Robert Wyatt, and Marianne Faithfull, each appearing individually on a given song and backed by the Danish Radio Concert Orchestra, with some contributions from the composer on trumpet and guitarist Rick Fenn. The texts are generally dark and pessimistic, well-suited for Wyatt and Faithfull especially, with his reedy and cautious and her life-weary voices. Both the orchestral accompaniment and the guitar obbligato will be familiar to fans of Mantler's previous work, the former billowy and brooding, the latter of a piece with the tone utilized on The Hapless Child. But a sense of sameness creeps in eventually, the music being fairly undifferentiated even though attractive and the shortness of the tracks causing one to have some difficulty distinguishing one from another. In fairness, some of this may be due to certain texts being read in the original French or German, thus running together in the memory of an English-speaking listener. Worth hearing for those who have followed Mantler's fascinating career, but newcomers are better advised to begin with either his Jazz Composers Orchestra work or the more rockish milieu of The Hapless Child.

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