New Lullaby by Aaron Larget-Caplan
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Sometimes a CD sounds so unpretentious, so simple, and so lovely that you just want to reach out and cradle someone in your arms. That s what I did with our pooch, Daisy Mae Doven, as guitarist Aaron Larget-Caplan wove his spell. A faculty member at the New School of Music in Cambridge and co-founder of the monthly 3rd Wednesday Concert Series, Larget-Caplan began his Lullaby Project in 2006. The call for new lullabies of all sorts received an enthusiastic response. Soon after the first lullaby arrived from composers young and old, his house burned down. Two months later, his wife, who teaches body physics and sacred geometry, sustained major injuries in an accident. If anyone needed lullabies, it was Larget-Caplan. Thankfully, lullabies kept coming. All 14 lullabies on the CD were first premiered at Harvard, the New School of Music, St. Paul s Church in Brookline, or the Ogunquit Museum of American Art in Maine. All composers provide short introductions to their babies in the liner notes.
Every lullaby is different. Disturbed, a Lullaby, is by David Leisner, one of Larget-Caplan s teachers at the New England Conservatory of Music. As its title reveals, it is a lullaby for a troubled time. Carson Cooman, who wrote Unfolding the Gates of Dawn: A Morning Lullaby , writes: Though lullabies are usually thought of as night music , this lullaby is for the morning. In short, some of these non-stereotypical songs are one giant crib away from your usual innocuous cradlesong. Happy or sad, placid or perilous, I find them universally engrossing. And thanks to Larget-Caplan s discernment and sensitive playing, even the most provocative is pretty much lovable. Move over, Daisy Mae. There s room on the couch for two. Jason Victor Serinus is a holistic author, bodyworker, whistling virtuoso and music critic who resides in Oakland, CA. --Audiophile October 2010
I immediately took to Aaron Larget-Caplan, the moment I read his artist s notes here: I do not have kids, he announces before explaining the harrowing experiences that followed the genesis of this lullaby project, four years ago. After the initial proposal to various composers for guitar lullabies, his house burned down, taking the new music with it. Then his wife was seriously injured two months later. Through these traumas, and with no fixed abode, Larget-Caplan has not been sleeping too well, and still the new lullabies kept coming in. His note of irony in the midst of genuine tragedy creates, in my mind, a very sincere musician. More importantly, he is a fine player, a classical guitarist with a keen ear for new music. He appears to have given his composers free rein with the lullaby form. This is not some, godawful, Classics-for-Baby CD, but 13 composers attempts at the lullaby form, not just in its healing wish to send someone to sleep, but also in its other, more folktale guise of the unsettling nighttime world. Personal experience seems to be the overriding theme of these works. The wistful, sad No Time came from the composer [Jonathan Feist] waiting for his premature baby to be big enough to leave the hospital. Others take their inspiration from literature, like Wheeler s Nachtlied, or McDonald s You Are Alone To Sleep, while others can create little gems from the mundane, like the fast, drip-dripping of Leaky Roof [Feist]. Certainly, the first 30 minutes of this disc work as relaxation. If this sounds a little too soporific for some, there are darker works to pepper this sweet-toned album, like the urgent episode in the otherwise gentle Descent to a Dream [Small], the night excursions of a restless mind. Vayo s Berceuse is actually quite frightening with its humming and whistling vocal line, lending the pleasant tune an eerie, otherworldly atmosphere. My one slight reservation is the order of the tracks, with these edgier works coming toward the end after an undemanding first half. Many will think Song Softly Sung, in Trying Times bizarrely suffers from tape hiss, when in fact Schwartz is wittily trying to depict an urban lullaby, in a dirty apartment complete with off-air television snow. That could have been better conveyed, but otherwise the recital has been beautifully recorded, catching every expressive detail of Larget-Caplan s playing. He is not afraid to change his sound for the right purpose; sometimes he achieves a harp-like sweetness, and at others he can be acerbic and unsettling. I am not usually a huge fan of solo guitar recitals, especially when it could have been so monotonously relaxing, but something new has been attempted here, and it makes me hope that Larget-Caplan looks both back and forward in time to gather up future volumes and create a Lullaby Almanac. Choose your tracks wisely, if want your child to sleep; for the rest of us, though, these make diverting nocturnal wanderings. Barnaby Rayfield This article originally appeared in Issue 34:3 (Jan/Feb 2011) of Fanfare Magazine. --Fanfare Magazine 34:3 (Jan/Feb 2011)
New Lullaby: Fourteen Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep is an outgrowth of the New Lullaby Project, brainchild of guitarist and educator Aaron Larget-Caplan (Beta, Boston Alumni). All of the CD s short solo pieces are newly commissioned by the artist and performed by Larget-Caplan with music insight and fluent technical aplomb. The appealing theme and some delightful surprises will attract a listening public that s often unwilling to give new music a hearing. Short character pieces, a popular inclusion in concert programs a hundred years ago, challenge both composer and artist to convey their essence in a few brief moments. This not mere background music; rather, the soothing and provocative sounds are mood enhancing and beckon personal involvement. Composer Lynn Job creates a wide variety of stylistic techniques in The Sixth Night. Chordal strumming, influence of classic flamenco style, jazz flourishes, and harmonic patterns from major to minor tonalities complement this very satisfying work. Jonathan Feist s Leaky Roof contains wide rhythmic movement and harmonic interest in rock-ballad style. The ostinato bass contrasts energetically with the melody, and his use of harmonics for the concluding theme leaves us with a sense of peace. In No Time, Feist weaves a poignantly memorable ballad, reminiscent of the Beatles style of melding seemingly uncomplicated harmonies. Similarly, the introduction of Francine Trester s My Darling s Slumber expands into a Beatlesque melody, develops with a bluesy line, and leads into interesting harmonies and phrasings. In Nachtlied, Scott Wheeler spins an enchanting melody with cross rhythms, punctuations of harmony, and use of rhythmic space to create silences, transporting the listener to restful peacefulness. Cradle Song by Kevin Siegfried is a true lullaby. A pleasing melody creates a lulling, restful effect, and surprise modulations evoke emotional memories of different worlds. In the melodically and harmonically rich Descent to a Dream, Mark Small employs broken chords, arpeggiated style, and chromatic interest to create a descriptive work. Nolan Stolz s Lullaby for Sam begins with a single motive and then embellishes it for interest, using portamenti to color the line. Improvisational style and ostinato bass are the first sounds we hear in Carson Cooman s [Unfolding the Gates of Dawn, a] morning lullaby. Attractive use of characteristic guitar touches (strumming repeated notes, broken chords, silences, an dynamics) contribute to the effectiveness of the composition. The sotto voce harmonics of John McDonald s You Are Alone to Sleep set the melody with dissonant chordal punctuation, while in berceuse David Vayo produces an instant mood through human voice and whistling juxtaposed with guitar, an extremely clever listening adventure. David Leisner s Disturbed, A Lullaby begins on a Low A and then follows a single 12 tone-like pattern in playful movement, creating an intricate and thought-provoking experience that finds its final resting place on High A. Eric Schwartz travels yet another area in his interesting compositional conception. Song Softly Sung, in Trying Times opens with the sound of the ocean, builds a beautiful theme through the harmonic circle, silence, and the ocean once more. Finally, Ryan Vigil focuses on the other-worldly timbre of the harmonic in Shhhh an innovative composition calling for scordatura tuning. -- Sherry Kloss, Epsilon Upsilon, Muncie Alumni About the Artist Aaron Larget-Caplan is a graduate of the New England Conservatory. --Upon Listening from The Triangle of Mu Phi Epsilon
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