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String Quartet No. 1, "The Mydnyte Sun"

David Jaedyn Conley

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Customer Reviews

New York Times Review, Feb 6, 2007

New York Times Review, Feb 6, 2007 February 6, 2007 MusicAn Ancient Theory Inspires Two Sets of More Modern Sounds By BERNARD HOLLAND My first contact with the title “Music of the Spheres” came at a traveling carnival in my youth at which a half-naked damsel with two tassels strategically attached rotated them in perfect harmony with the universe. Music of the spheres — later revealed to me as a theory of astronomy among ancient Greeks — has showed up twice in the unlikely space of three days: the Music of the Spheres Society at Weill Recital Hall on Friday night, and the trio Music of the Spheres at the Frick Collection on Sunday afternoon. Having taken beatings from Newton, Einstein and the Hubble Telescope, Pythagoras may be making a comeback. The thought of a planetary system held together by sympathetic tones and interconnecting rhythms is immensely appealing and one reason music used to be taught alongside science and mathematics. Masses, motets, fugues, canons and madrigals might be seen as miniatures of a heavenly order, with symmetries of the night skies shining down on each. But promises of celestial enlightenment over the weekend were short-lived. Both events, like my carnival miss, used the title “Music of the Spheres” (if you will forgive me) as fronts, in this case for interesting chamber music having little to do with either old Greeks or the heavens. Friday’s group was five string players led by the violinist Stephanie Chase, with, among others, another violinist (Michi Wiancko), a clarinetist (Jon Manasse) and a pianist (Frank Lévy). The Frick was offering a trio of period instruments playing Baroque music. It was nice to hear Erno Dohnanyi’s very agreeable String Trio on Friday and Corelli’s famous D-minor Sonata “La Folia” a few days later, but a promise to shake hands with the cosmos was just the old bait-and-switch. Pythagoras was missed. For if the great man spent his nights examining the skies, among his celebrated day jobs was the scientific dissection of vibrating strings into musical scales or modes. Pythagorean scales are ground zero for more than 2,000 years of European music that came after them. Ah, well. There was David Jaedyn Conley’s “Mydnyte Sun” on Friday to remind us to look beyond the musical language in search of quality. Mr. Conley’s New Age airiness might have suited a “Batman” movie, but there are interesting and well-organized things going on in its four sections. It’s not every day we hear Brahms’s Clarinet Trio either, with its golden-years languor and its refusal to be hurried. On Sunday Jeanne Johnson played such rarely-heards as Georg Muffat, Heinrich Biber and Johann Schmelzer on the violin, and with great ornamental flourishes. Joanna Blendulf’s cello and Yuko Tanaka’s harpsichord were scarcely less good. Music of the spheres was taken seriously right through the Renaissance; Shakespeare was a fan. Plato said that everyone heard it from birth but didn’t notice. Going back to Pythagoras now is tough — not because the science is wrong, but because music isn’t the same. It’s not heavenly perfection anymore; it’s about human frailty, another way of reporting what a mess we’re in. The Greeks thought that music would make us look up, not straight ahead or else at our shoes.

String Quartet No. 1, "The Mydnyte Sun", David Jaedyn Conley
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  • $3.96
  • Genres: Classical, Music
  • Released: Aug 23, 2007

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