Pieces by nine very different composers make up this fascinating collection of works for string quartet entitled Short Stories, performed by the Kronos Quartet. Elliott Sharp's Digital (1986) is a hard-edged rhythmic study using the instrument bodies as drums, with objects inserted in the strings to create rattling, shaker, and tambourine-like sounds. Steve Mackey's arrangement (1989) of the classic Chicago blues tune "Spoonful" (1960), by the prolific Willie Dixon, exaggerates the gestures of the song and employs complex harmonies and modernistic devices like string crunches, etc. John Oswald's Spectre (1990) opens with the naive sound of the quartet tuning up.
This may be the single most powerful piece of music that the Kronos Quartet has ever recorded, and perhaps that Terry Riley has ever written. This is because Requiem for Adam is so personal, so direct, and experiential. Requiem for Adam was written after the death of Kronos violinist David Harrignton's son. He died, in 1995, at the age of 16, from an aneurysm in his coronary artery. Riley, who is very close to the Harringtons and has a son the same age, has delved deep into the experience of death and resurrection, or, at the very least, transmutation. Requiem for Adam is written in three parts, or movements. The first, "Ascending the Heaven Ladder," is based on a four-note pattern that re-harmonizes itself as it moves up the scale. There are many variations and series based on each of these notes and their changing harmonics, and finally a 5/4 dance as it moves to the highest point on the strings. The drone-like effect is stunning when the listener realizes that the drone is changing shape too, ascending the scale, moving ever upward and taking part in the transmutation of harmony.
One of Don Cherry's most spiritual, far-reaching projects – a wonderful record that builds both on his key avant work of the 60s, and some of the globally-inspired sounds he was cutting overseas! This date was done in close collaboration with the New York underground of the time – and the large group features work from a rich array of great musicians – including Charles Brackeen on soprano and alto sax, Carlos Ward on alto, Frank Lowe and Dewey Redman on tenors, Charlie Haden on bass, Carla Bley on piano, and Ed Blackwell on drums – working with additional string and percussion players in a sound that's completely sublime! There's a great ear here for unusual sonic twists and turns, yet these are mixed with some deeper organic tones, and some freer jazz passages – all to really ignite a great fire as the set rolls on.