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Julia Wolfe: The String Quartets


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Audio CD, February 11, 2003
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Product Details

  • Composer: Julia Wolfe
  • Audio CD (February 11, 2003)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Cantaloupe
  • Run Time: 36.44 minutes
  • ASIN: B00007IPZT
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #59,919 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Dig Deep, for string quartet
2. Four Marys, for string quartet
3. Early that summer, for string quartet

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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By David Brown on February 3, 2005
Format: Audio CD
What made me get this CD of Julia Wolfe's String Quartets was her citing of influences from Beethoven to Led Zeppelin. Specifically these string quartets were said to be inspired by Led Zeppelin and other American 'pop' music. I had to hear it.

Know what you're getting into before you buy this CD. All the pieces brush close to minimalism but with more intensity, less pure harmonies, and much better rhythm. You won't find shimmering, sweet harmonies but rather harsh and blunt harmonies. Her influences for these works seem to come from rock and metal less than from Beethoven, Schubert, or the like.

The first quartet, 'Big Deep', plays true to its name. It's an almost non-stop rhythmic work on some harsh, low chords. It almost reminds me of a metal band like Meshuggah being transcribed to String Quartet. It sounds like the soundtrack to an aggressive underwater expedition by the Discovery Channel. Different short, adventurous melodies try to break through on the violins occasionally but are always beaten down back into the 'big deep' of the rhythmic chords. It gets progressively more dissonant and harsher towards the end, building up a violent undercurrent that crashes against the end as suddenly as it began.

'Four Marys' is definately the most abstract sounding of the pieces. It is less repetitive than Big Deep. It begins with all parts doing glissandos, sliding around the middle registers. This eventually turns into some webs of soft harmonies sustained, and occasionally reverts back to its searching, sliding beginnings.

'Last Summer' is more remeniscent of the first piece, back to the grinding chords, but not as deep and to me not as memorable. It has more moments of melody, which is to say a few brief snatches of melody over 10 minutes.
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11 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Slip Kid on December 19, 2004
Format: Audio CD
The New Yorker included this CD as one of its top classical releases of 2003, and that's how I ended up with one of the only CD's, of hundred's I've purchased, that I'm desperate to get rid of. The first track opens with a grinding, jarring riff that's a bit of Purple Haze without the satisfaction of any kind of resolution or even progression. It churns relentlessly and repetitively for over 13 minutes with the one moment of glory the beautiful respite of silence that comes when the last dissonant chord fades. The next track oscillates in and out of harmony, an effect that could be reproduced by a house DJ (with a death wish) who messed with the speed control of turntable playing Philip Glass in a dirge-like mode. The third track -- well, who knows -- my pain threshold had long since been met and crossed.

As a casual classical music fan, I can't claim to make sense of all of this. But if this is what passes as new, interesting, and innovative classical music then it is no wonder the genre is in trouble. If it's pleasure you're after, look elsewhere. If you like your music as a self-flagellating intellectual exercise, then this may be the one for you. Just keep the Advil nearby.
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Julia Wolfe: The String Quartets
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