David Simons

David Simons: Fung Sha Noon

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Two of the four pieces on this album of music by New York-area composer David Simons use an Indonesian, specifically a Javanese gamelan orchestra, and they draw on the procedures of traditional Indonesian music to a greater extent than some of the recordings of the group involved, New York's Son of Lion Gamelan. Indeed, even the other two pieces, with no gamelan involved, seem to have been shaped by an encounter with gamelan music; the use of interlocking parts to generate a longer cycle marked by a gong or some other large percussion instrument, for example, is a favorite device of the composer. Simons ornaments basic percussion textures with light use of samples and electronics in the later pieces, and he has a nice way of keeping the parts clear in the texture. Perhaps the most interesting piece is the Music for theremin and gamelan (tracks 3 and 4), composed in 1998 and 1999 and dedicated to the theremin virtuosa Clara Rockmore, who died before she could hear it. The piece alternates between gamelan sections in which the thermin fits in toward the end, intensifying the texture, and theremin solos, "activating samples by proximity midi-triggering." A bit of explanation of this for the non-technical might have been a help, but the effect can be grasped by anybody; the texture is deepened by another step when this happens. The final Chain of Incident, from 1993, makes sharp, pristine use of junk percussion, or, as Simons puts it, "debris with personality." The opening work, Odentity, draws less on gamelan than on the music of Harry Partch, whose 43-tones-to-the-octave instrumentarium stimulated the composition of the work and is used in the performance. A successful stretch for John Zorn's Tzadik label, this disc is recommended for fans of contemporary percussion music. The album's title, for no apparently good reason, is a Yiddish-Chinese pun meaning "are you starting in with me already?" in the former and "sudden abundance," "looks good in a monk's robe," or "killer wind" in the latter, at least according to the composer.

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