DVD + Blu-ray
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Customers who bought this item also bought
Serious Business is not a funny album. More accurately, playing this album will not induce the brand of gut-busting, teary-eyed revelry that an episode of Chappelle's Show or a YouTube clip of Anna Karkowska's vibrato will. It is funny like the idea of a Rothko turning the stomachs of well-heeled gluttons at the Four Seasons is funny, or how anything Andy Kaufman ever suited up for is funny. It might be a little uncomfortable, rings clear in its truth, and sometimes reveals itself gradually.
Serious Business comprises four different perspectives on humor through the lens of classical music - a flavor of music that could use a little more funny, in general. You, dear listener, won't be popping in this CD in the way you would a Louis C.K. special. This is an album about what makes something funny, and more importantly, a collection of music we think is brilliant, and clever, and unequivocally worth entering the cave for.
Since its inception, the Spektral Quartet has sought out the discourse between the great works of the traditional canon and those written this decade, this year, or this week. Creating connections across centuries, the group further invites its listeners in with charismatic deliveries, interactive concert formats, an up-close atmosphere, and bold, inquisitive programming.
The ensemble is regarded for its forward-thinking endeavors including the Mobile Miniatures project, which rallied more than forty composers from across the US including David Lang, Augusta Read Thomas, Nico Muhly and Shulamit Ran to write ringtone-length pieces for download to mobile devices. In addition to finding vehicles for bringing classical music into everyday life, the Spektral Quartet prioritizes immersion and inclusivity and delivers the majority of its Chicago concerts in vibrant, unconventional venues.
The Spektral Quartet proudly serves as ensemble-in-residence at the University of Chicago's Department of Music.
Chicago Tribune Album of the week
"Perhaps the funniest few seconds of "Serious Business," the new recording by Chicago's cutting-edge Spektral Quartet, is the entry of Franz Joseph Haydn's well-mannered String Quartet No. 2 (Opus 33) on the heels of David Reminick's decidedly ill-mannered "The Ancestral Mousetrap" (2014), in which the instrumentalists play and sing (sometimes in four-part harmony) an absurdist-macabre text by Russell Edson.
But, then, Haydn did subtitle his quartet "The Joke" (a reference to the several tongue-in-cheeky endings in the Presto finale), and everything about the Sono Luminus package (the CD comes with an audio DVD) is an intentional nudge in the listener's ribs - not so much laugh-out-loud funny as wickedly-droll funny.
The big piece on the disc, Chicago composer Chris Fischer-Lochhead's "Hack" (2015) is a suite in 22 sections - some as tiny as 9 or 10 seconds - made up of transcriptions of lines once uttered by 16 famed comedians ranging from Lenny Bruce to Robin Williams. Fischer-Lochhead's rude scrunches, swoops and sputters are cheerfully anarchic stuff; so is Sky Macklay's "Many Many Cadences" (2014), a twitchy mass of tonal cadences jammed atop one another. The performances and recording could hardly be better, and the cover art is a hoot."
--John von Rhein, Chicagotribune.com, January 26, 2016
"Spektral's album may be entitled Serious Business, but in actuality it encompasses anything but the austere classical stereotype. Filled with music that is new and old, classical and comedic, it is boundary-defying in every way." --Rebecca Julie, Chicagomaroon.com, January 28, 2016
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Apparently there is a great deal more to be explored in this genre. I am happy to say that these folks are up to the task as are the composers whose work they present. Serious Business is some seriously interesting music performed with serious skill by this new quartet, the Spektral Quartet. They are the string quartet in residence at the University of Chicago, itself a venerable place for new music.
We start here with a piece by Sky Macklay called Many Many Cadences (2014) a piece that seems to come from a similar place to that of the work of Conlon Nancarrow with intricate rhythms within a somewhat conservative tonal idiom. The title is suggestive of Gertrude Stein (Many, Many Women). It was commissioned for the Spektral Quartet by the Walden School. The piece is immediately engaging and ultimately satisfying.
The second piece, The Ancestral Mousetrap (2014) by David Reminick features a less common use of a string quartet in that there is a vocal component. This is not the vocalist component pioneered by Schoenberg in his second quartet. These vocalizations are performed by the quartet. This is no simple feat either because the vocal writing is itself a challenge in its rhythmic complexity. The piece resembles a little opera and indeed the text by poet Russell Edson is here called a libretto. This piece was commissioned by the Spektral Quartet.
The third piece here is an unusual choice (and the only one not commissioned for the Spektral Quartet) which is explored in the liner notes . Haydn's Quartet Op. 33 No. 2, subtitled "The Joke" is one of the relatively few examples of attempts at program music (vs absolute music) to be found in the classical era. First, no one will buy this disc just for the Haydn. Second, many collectors will already have this Haydn piece in their collection. But with that said this is a lovely performance of one of the emblematic pieces of music that created the need for the performing ensemble known as the string quartet and it is a lovely performance as well. I will leave it to other listeners to read the program notes and get into the rationale about its inclusion here.
The final piece, Hack (2015) by Chris Fisher-Lochead is perhaps the most unusual of the lot in that the composer uses vocal inflections by a collection of comedians (yes, comedians) as the source for his rhythmic and melodic contours and creates 22 separate pieces about 16 comedians (some get more than one piece). This piece requires more concentration by the listener but, like any well-written piece, it reveals more of itself with repeated listenings. The Barlow Endowment at Brigham Young University commissioned this piece for the Spektral Quartet.
The Spektral Quartet is Clara Lyon, violin; Austin Wulliman, violin; Doyle Armbrust, viola; Russell Rollen, cello. The recording, as with every Sono Luminus release I've heard is glorious and lucid.
Amongst the contemporary pieces, the variety is similarly impressive. Far from having an axe to grind, the Spektrals embrace a panoply of musical aesthetics, devoting themselves not to an overarching and unified notion of what music should be but to the idiosyncratic musical demands of a specific composer and a specific piece. Sky Macklay's "Many Many Cadences" combines high-brow wit and physical exuberance - an impressive display of compositional deftness that manages to sound uniquely modern while at the same time referencing centuries-old musical traditions. Dave Reminick's "The Ancestral Moustrap", a setting of the poems of Russell Edson in which the quartet members sing, is infectious. It is probably the most finely wrought work on the disc, bursting with detail and nuance - but for all its craft, it never fails to engage the body and provoke a smile. It is so much FUN. Chris Fisher-Lochhead's "Hack", based on transcriptions of standup comics, is startling in the breadth of its language. Like the medium that it draws on, it can be violent and unpredictable, coy, boorish, wry, cerebral, nervous, scatological, and deeply sad. The quartet manages to execute the score's extreme difficulties while still making excellent chamber music and presenting a coherent musical intention.
In addition to the extremely high level of playing, musicianship, and collaboration on display here, the recording itself is ravishing. Sono Luminus is known for the unimpeachable quality of their recordings and this disc does not disappoint.