William Orbit

Pieces in a Modern Style, Vol. 2

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The artist most often mentioned when discussing William Orbit's classical crossover albums is Wendy Carlos, whose synthesizer pieces of Bach piqued many a college student's interest during the early '70s. But on Pieces in a Modern Style 2, Orbit's second edition in a series that also includes 2000's original, he sounds like his closest inspiration is Tomita, the Japanese synth maestro who focused less on interpreting the classical canon than conveying the emotion and feel of these pieces, in a manner that struck classical fans as dumbing down the classics, but showed non-classical listeners a little bit of what's special about the form. Orbit's style here is close to Tomita's, with Casio synth of the late-'70s variety burbling arpeggios in the background while synth-strings play the basic melody of the piece. Orbit says in the notes that he's interested in classical music because of the way it's put together, but it's difficult to understand the meaning of such a simplistic statement. If he's talking about the basic elements of classical music -- complexity, harmonization, modulation, or musical form -- then these pieces don't measure up at all. What he's created is an introduction to the feel of classical music, but listeners, regardless of their enjoyment of classical music, should understand that the feel of the thing is far from the thing itself.

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