Born in Evanston, Illinois, in 1959, Evan Ziporyn has the credentials of a more conventional composer: he studied music at Eastman, Yale, and the University of California at Berkeley, and now teaches composition at M.I.T. As a clarinetist and saxophonist, he has been an important advocate for new music, most notably through his involvement with New York's Bang On A Can Festival and through his commissioning of new works. His education has also included extended stays in Bali and South Africa, several years as a performing member of the Oakland-based Gamelan Sekar Jaya, and stints in jazz and rock bands. Elements from those disparate musical strands jostle beguilingly against each other in his music, which draws from an eclectic range of styles and languages.
Yet Ziporyn’s music offers no easy one-world homily—it says as much about the powerful differences between musical traditions as about their common bonds. When elements from Balinese gamelan or African pop show up in Western art music, they inevitably sound deracinated and out of kilter— without the context that provides those gestures their original meanings, the gestures metamorphose into something different, usually unintended. By the same token, familiar rhythms and tonal formulas from close to home can become strangers when dressed up in foreign garb.
The four pieces in this collection recognize and capitalize on those discrepancies. Although Ziporyn has studied his non-Western sources carefully, his use of them amounts to what the literary critic Harold Bloom might call a willful misreading: The falsifying and transmutation that are unavoidable anyway become the music’s source of artistic strength. Ziporyn’s distinctively far-reaching style constitutes a vibrant celebration of the fact that music is not a universal language.
This title, originally issued on the CRI label, is now available for order from New World Records as an on-demand CD (CD-R). It can also be downloaded in MP3/320, FLAC and/or WAV format(s).