My Dear Siegfried
Buckner, Maria Ludovici, Eric Barsness- vocalists
Hamilton- engineering and special effects
WW1-era antiwar British poet Siegfried Sassoon and
American S.N. Behrman exchanged spirited letters and poetry for many
years. David Behrman (apparently no relation to S.N.), inspired by this
correspondence, programmed his electronic musical devices to interact
with vocalists reciting some of these texts. The results are uneven.
Behrman’s instrumental subtleties are as wonderful here as they have
been throughout his career. He is one of the 20th century’s
most gifted electronic music-makers (There, I said it). But the pastoral
gentleness coming from his machinery is not very compatible with the
largely unmusical character of the recited texts. I think it would’ve
been much more preferable to let the listener silently read the texts
while listening to the music; the two aren’t inherently mismatched. An
exception is the piece “Everyone Sang,” the ecstatic poem Sassoon wrote
to commemorate the end of WW1. The electronics fit well with the words,
and that’s mostly because the poem here is sung, not spoken.
Disc 2 in this 2-cd set is more enjoyable. Five
more newly-recorded pieces by the composer are here and are all
outstanding. “QSRL” and “Viewfinder” are Behrman at his lovely best, the
electronic devices issuing music ranging from the gentle to the
transcendentally lyrical. “Touch Tones” and “Pools of Phase Locked
Loops” are far more beautiful than their hardware titles would suggest.
To say that disc 2 is worth the cost of the whole set would be a great
understatement. Followers of Behrman won’t want to miss this set and
newcomers should try the second disc first.