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Johnny Gandelsman: This Is America

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Johnny Gandelsman: This Is America

My CD arrived remarkably quickly so this will be the first of a few posts on this admirable project. First, a comment on the cover design:


Aesthetically, this is interesting, isn't it? It has a distinctly retro or dystopian feel. This perhaps comes from an imagined dystopian, post-apocalypse time when all there is left is beat-up, worn-out typewriters and scraps of old file folders. This is borne out in the introduction where the artist refers to the disasters of the 2020/21 years with the deaths from COVID, the riots, police brutality, wildfires, unemployment and so on. It was a kind of apocalypse and the album is an attempt to give voice to others, the essential task of a classical musician. He concludes:

Over the course of the last 18 months, I've come to think of this project as an anthology, a snapshot in time, documenting a tiny slice of the creative thought and output in this country today. I invite you to stop listening to pundits, extend your ears, open up your imagination, and trust the music to guide you into a challenging, complicated and thrilling sound world--This Is America.  --Johnny Gandelsman

The booklet also contains an essay by each composer on their piece, plus the words to those pieces with a text and a track listing.

I apologize if I am a "pundit" though I think of myself more as being a (retired) performer and very part-time composer. So let's work our way slowly through these 22 pieces. The first one is"O" (standing for "oxygen") by Clarice Assad. She sees oxygen as a common theme in the transmission of Covid, the respiratory failure that it often caused, the prevention of breath entering the lungs of George Floyd and so on. "O" is for violin and processed vocal overdubs. Blogger won't embed, but here is a clip from YouTube from the album:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPk6s8fWBoI

Clarice Assad is the daughter of Sergio Assad of the famous Assad guitar duo. This piece makes excellent use of the violin's capacity for extended, expressive melody. I don't have too much to say after only listening a couple of times, but it seems a very effective piece with a lot of atmospheric weight. There is also a clip on YouTube where she talks briefly about the piece:

That's all I am going to do today. I encourage you to pick up a copy of the album and we can work our way through it together.




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