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7.2.06

Now That's Cross-Over: Ayre & You've Stolen My Heart

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O. Golijov/L. Berio, Ayre, Folk Songs, Andalucian Dogs / D. Upshaw
Osvaldo Golijov’s Ayre has received plenty of attention among classical and non-classical music lovers – including here on Ionarts, where we published a critical review of Charles’s. I didn’t react to Ayre very positively either – albeit for different reasons than Charles. But the night that I read his review, I listened to it once more and suddenly had a very different reaction to it. Listening to it alone, at night, without any expectations, I rather liked it. And suddenly it wasn’t classical music anymore… it was just music. If it had to be categorized, I would have assigned it to classically informed folk-rock. It has its Silk Road / Middle Eastern influences. At one point it is hard-driving Armenian 21st-century folk, at another moment you are transported to a Beirut disco, one track further down you are placed back in the South-East European classical tradition.

Those who are used to Golijov’s previous works – although influences can be traced – are in for a surprise; those expecting classical music à la Penderecki, Pärt, or even Berio might be disappointed… those who leave categories behind might find it very enjoyable indeed. I myself thought at several points of Hubert von Goisern – an Austrian musician who has probably done more than any other musician to repopularize traditional Austrian and Bavarian folk music by collecting it. At first he placed them in the context of rock – as his fame grew and his style progressed, he barely altered these songs and had success with them, anyway. Since then he has gone on to explore African, Caribbean, and central Asian sounds in his unique and always honest blend of music. Golijov sounds more calculating and more polished, even in his roughest moments (those, for example, that had Charles exclaim that Ms. Upshaw was simply singing “ugly”).

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You've Broken My Heart, Asha Boshle/Kronos Quartet
Still, Ayre is successful because it taps into our sensibilities as music that is, although not ‘authentic’ in any meaningful sense, so at least novel. It also represents Cross-Over in the only way that we wish that genre would exist. Instead of Amici, Il Divo, Andre Rieu, Andrea Bocelli, and that travesty called “Bond” we now have music and albums that are “Cross-Over” not because they try to reach the musical insipidity of the Top 40 under the pretense of aiming for “classical,” but music that is genuinely straddling musical worlds that had hitherto been narrowly (and conveniently) defined. Especially the introduction of non-Western music (certainly considered “classical” in their culture, for the most part) into what we generally understand to be “Classical Music” (‘notational music’ that succeeds according to how much it adheres to the principles of the music we are used to) has us reconsider what exactly classical music is. Mahler, who gave us the mandolin as part of the orchestra, still operated in the (although already extended) framework of classical music. Now we not only have the Oud in ‘classical music’, but also the rhythms of that instrument’s country of origin, or the harmonic language of the Sitar.

Ayre is but one example of that. A few steps south we’ll find a culture that put its stamp on another disc that is a part of that relatively new breed of ‘true Cross-Over’. This time it’s by the pioneers and veterans in that field, the Kronos Quartet, who worked together with Asha Bhosle on their new disc You’ve Stolen My Heart. Asha Bhosle is one of the most revered Bollywood veteran singers, and the world’s most beautiful women have moved their lips to her voice. Hearing her on this record (which does not make any pretensions about being classical – it’s pretty straight Bollywood songs with string quartet) makes one marvel how fresh and young sounding she keeps her voice. The disc does not venture into unique blends of sound as does Ayre, nor does it come with the Berio (those Italian folk songs being perhaps the most intriguing folk/classical fusion since Bela Bartók’s recordings and compositions) that graces Dawn Upshaw’s disc. For those, however, who do not (or do not want to) listen only to classical music (and for all my love for the genre: why would anyone listen to classical music exclusively?), either disc should be worth giving a listen to. They may just offer the fare of high-quality “different” music that will delight them and their company on any given casual evening.

DG 02894775414 / Nonesuch 79856

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