Sounding the New Violin

Malcolm Goldstein

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Sounding the New Violin Review

by Dan Warburton

As both an improvising violinist and composer, Malcolm Goldstein has worked tirelessly to promote American new music, and this selection of six pieces written especially for him by John Cage, Pauline Oliveros, Ornette Coleman, Philip Corner, James Tenney, and himself marks a significant step forward in the repertory of solo violin music. Cage's "Eight Whiskus" is an adaptation of a work written for soprano Joan La Barbara (and a meticulously notated one at that, despite its fresh, almost improvisatory feel). Goldstein's own "Sounding the Fragility of Line" was written as a homage to the late Morton Feldman ("because he never had time to write me a piece, I wrote him one"), and uses the letters of the composer's name to generate the material. The score of Pauline Oliveros' "Portrait of Malcolm" (in fact the piece is entitled "Portrait of ____," the performer invited to insert his or her name) consists of a mandala of instructions, while the suite of pieces written for the violinist by Ornette Coleman is more conventionally notated -- and immediately recognizable as Ornette Coleman music! Goldstein's former colleagues in the Tone Roads ensemble, Philip Corner and James Tenney, each contribute a piece to the set, Tenney's being "Koan," one of his celebrated "Postal Pieces." "After the first twenty seconds of the piece (the audience) can almost determine what's going to happen the whole rest of the time," Tenney writes. "They can really listen to the sounds." And there's much to listen to on this groundbreaking disc.

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