Saturday, May 9, 2015

Wagner Transformed by J. Peter Schwalm

His tonality
suits Wagner perfectly for
a modern soundscape.

I know of J. Peter Schwalm from his work with Brian Eno on Drawn From Life, an album I've always wanted to compare and contrast with Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life.

I know Richard Wagner from his operas, mostly his Ring Cycle that I've been too cheap to buy because it's over $100 for the box of CDs.

But I don't remember where I first heard about Schwalm's 2013 work, Wagner Transformed, in which he celebrates what would've been Wagner's 200th birthday by re-imagining the composer's work for the modern times. This 13 track album features Wagner's work from Tristan & Isolde, Siegfried, Parsifal and more performed by Schwalm, Eivind Aarset, Christine Schutz, and Brian Eno.

The album exhibits a balanced, tense peacefulness in which piano performances of  (sometimes barely) recognizable traditional Wagner serve as guideposts poking up through electronic soundscapes that are either gentle, drifting snow or violent crashing waves. The effect is quite compelling.  

The only parallel I can draw is what Art of Noise did in 2000's The Seduction of Claude Debussy. In that album - which I absolutely love - they celebrate the musical possibilities of the 21st century by reveling in what Debussy did at the start of the 20th.

"I don't understand music but I sure love the sound it makes."

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

No comments: