Michael Udow

Michael Udow: Over the Moon

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Percussionist Michael Udow, who is based in Michigan, is a multi-instrumentalist even beyond what is usual in his field; on this album alone he plays several dozen instruments with origins from Switzerland to Indonesia, and his wife, Nancy, adds four or five more on several of these works. The largest group is Japanese, and the music and drama of Japan are primary influences on these compositions, although Javanese gamelan sounds recur in the first of them, Over the Moon. Udow's notes (in English only) for that work are a bit confusing. There are no texts, just a series of short movements consisting of specific instrumental timbres deployed in statements that resemble theatrical gestures. Yet each movement title refers to a haiku, and the texts of these are included in the booklet. All are related to the moon, and several are quite humorous (If my complaining wife/were alive, I might be/out watching the moon). Further, Udow writes that the opening melody of the work is related to a different poem, one that he wrote, but that was "lost in one of several moves." Murky though the intentions may be, the music, with its constantly changing textures, is compelling. Tennei-Ji, for a single soloist playing marimba and delivering vocally distorted readings of Udow's own haiku-like poems, is the only work that actually includes a text. Both this work and the longer Stepping on Stars allude to the stylized moves of Noh drama, although Udow concedes that he has never attended a Noh performance. Stepping on Stars and the concluding Zig-Zag (misidentified as part of Tennei-Ji on some digital download sites) are not formally broken down into short sections, but they still carry the feeling of a series of dramatic tableaux. Very nicely recorded at a local studio (Solid Sound) in Ann Arbor, MI, this is an unusually imaginative set of percussion performances.

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