David Soldier / Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Ice-9 Ballads

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Another project from intrepid composer Dave Soldier, this album is a collection of songs adapted from Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle. Vonnegut narrates throughout the album, with the Manhattan Chamber Orchestra playing the backing. The music switches tones throughout to match the tone of the novel at some level. The works vary, from vaguely Caribbean sounds to bluesy country to stride piano and back again. The interesting feature here isn't so much either the music or the narration, but the interplay between the two. The backdrop of music provides a setting for the basic story, enveloping the listener in an environment of sorts. Admittedly, this is the presumable aim of Soldier in his compositions. The musicians show themselves to be more than capable as well, providing everything necessary from violins to West African balafons in the proper spots. Perhaps even more interesting than the feature piece, however, is "East St. Louis, 1968," a piece written to evoke a walk to St. Louis by an 11-year-old viola player in 1968. It's written primarily for viola (played by conductor Richard Aulden Clark) and sound samples. This single piece effortlessly glides from hip-hop to Stevie Wonder-esque harmonica blues to a fiery sermon from a Baptist preacher, all with a careful lining of string quartet under the main lines. It's an interesting album to say the least, getting the avant-garde label from the eclecticism in it, but providing decidedly non-avant-garde bits and pieces throughout that make the whole. Pick it up as a fan of Vonnegut, for an aural version of his work, or as a generally inquisitive listener. Don't go in expecting something bland or predictable, however.

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