Ransom Wilson

Reich, Glass & Becker

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In the early '80s, flutist Ransom Wilson was something of the poster boy for classical music: a young, good-looking hunk of a guy who played a mean flute and didn't mind mixing it up a bit with "popular" music. On this recording, he dipped his toes into minimalism and a fairly timid dip it was. Steve Reich's "Vermont Counterpoint," scored for ten flutes (all played, via tape, by Wilson) is a pretty enough, if forgettable, piece. All of the ideas had been worked over by Reich many times in other instrumentations, so the major benefit derived is simply hearing how his structures sound on the flute. As one might expect, the answer is "pleasant," but not too much more. "Facades" is the sort of piece Philip Glass had the unfortunate tendency to churn out by the yard. Once again, it is uniformly pleasant and serene but has all the permanence of cotton candy and is nothing even the casual Glass fan hasn't heard many times before. Interestingly, the string orchestra backing Wilson on this track is uncredited. Worse still is Frank Becker's "Stonehenge" (as though the title enough wasn't enough to make one cringe), a new age-y mélange for flute, percussion, and synthesizers drawing a little bit on shakuhachi music but much more on mind-numbingly vapid synth chords of the type thought dead and buried with people like Roger Powell. Wilson also includes a lovely rendition of Debussy's "Syrinx" and Andre Jolivet's "Asceses (I)," both apparently intended to be heard as tangential antecedents of minimalism but both far outshining the other works on compositional merit, depth of feeling, and lack of kitsch.