Vit Micka

John A. Carollo: Transcendence in the Age of War

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Hawaii-based composer John A. Carollo offers specific philosophical and political meanings and inspirations for the music contained on this release by the small Navona label of Hampton, NH. The three-movement Fear of Angst, for instance (the movements are "Beware, Beware of Fear," and "Beware of Those Who Preach Fear"), is said to have been inspired by a poem of Charles Bukowski and animated by the idea that "when you subjugate the masses by instilling fear they will vote against their best interests. BEWARE." You might not guess this content without reading the text, and indeed you might suppose that Carollo's music is more about dialogue than about outright conflict. Transferring his style across media from string orchestra to small chamber groups, Carollo writes complex phrase structures in which instrumental groups break in on each other's statements and push the musical conversation in new directions. Perhaps the highlight of the whole set is the String Quintet No. 1 for 10-string guitar and string quartet, composed in 2008. The subtlety of the the music hardly brings the U.S. presidential campaign of that year to mind (that is the music's stated inspiration, but the artistry with which the guitar and strings are combined over the work's three movements is consistently absorbing). Carollo's gift for writing for the guitar is also shown in the Saggese Guitar Suite, composed for Italian guitarist Christian Saggese, although this work stands a bit apart from the rest of the program. The album's purely programmatic aims are best realized in the title work, Transcendence in the Age of War, originally composed for band; the two-piano version heard here effectively proceeds from duality to an ending of resolution that seems to continue in the final work on the program, Let the Mind Be Still. Whether or not you buy the political subtexts, Carollo, a partially self-taught composer, has accomplished a distinctive original style.

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