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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

David Lang, Death Speaks

In the realm of the "memento mori" paintings, Nico in her classic dark period, and Medieval-Rennaissance art song comes David Lang's Death Speaks (Canteloupe). It is a several part meditation on death inspired by Schubert's "Death and the Maiden," though Lang's opus sounds nothing like it.

The small instrumental chamber ensemble of electric guitar, violin and keyboard-piano (and bass drum) weaves a langorous web of post-modernist cyclic motifs while Shara Worden (joined toward the end by Owen Pallett, who also plays violin on the recording) sings a lovely set of poetic lyrics on Death personified and the goodbyes to life that have resonance with such early music composers as Giullame Dufay. It is hauntingly painful, lovely and dark.

A second work, "Depart," concludes the program with suspended, wordless long-toned vocals and multiple cello parts. It drones and motives recur with mystic insistence.

In short this is David Lang at his best. It is gloriously dark music, and a clear step away from anything predictable in the new music scene. It occupies its own space like a tropical island surrounded by sea. Lang is essential today, and this is a key work.


  1. There comes a time at most funerals when the minister or priest will address those in attendance and say, "We come here not to mourn a death, but to celebrate a life." While such a statement is meant to provide comfort, the reality is that a loved one's death is a tragic event for those left behind.

    personalize songs

  2. Yes that is very so Kathy. There is a hole there that does not get filled easily, if at all.

  3. And I see you give us a link to "Songs by Suzi"...ahh...a plate of SPAM per chance to imbibe at the funeral repast? No matter.