Mark Applebaum

The Bible Without God

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Mark Applebaum has been nothing short of prolific in the 2000s, with new releases appearing regularly on Innova in addition to extracurricular activities on other labels. The Bible Without God is a two-CD set that feels like two separate releases pulled together with filler material. The problem is easy to guess: at 34 minutes, the title track was too short to be released on its own, and yet it is the main feature of the album. Taking its name from a comment a critic made after someone suggested that Merce Cunningham's choreographies would be better without John Cage's music, the 13-part suite is a clever homage to the latter. Odd parts consist of live electro-acoustic solos performed by the composer on the "mouseketier," the sound sculpture he has been using since 2001. Even parts are short graphic or process pieces performed by Applebaum's Cage class of 16 students at Stanford University, all inspired by or derived from techniques and innovations pioneered by the legendary figure. Fascinating, varied, and passionate, "The Bible Without God" stands as one of Applebaum's best pieces. Two mouseketier solos round up disc one: short at seven minutes, "Garden of Memory" is spirited and whimsical, but the half-hour-long "Essl Museum" rolls around endlessly, as Applebaum stacks loop upon loop of treated rod-hitting and metal-brushing effects. Here, he sounds like any laptop-wielding improviser. Disc two is entirely devoted to solo mouseketier performances again. "Wired Gardens" (16 minutes) establishes a captivating mood, while the hourlong "The Mind Altering Concert" features Applebaum in top shape, developing strong themes, exploring wide dynamics, and constantly moving the performance along sans loops. It might have been better to release these two tracks on their own and wait for another chamber ensemble piece to pair with "The Bible Without God," instead of going for two discs filled to the rim. Nevertheless, this album contains some of Applebaum's sharpest, most original music.

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