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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Michael Gordon, Anonymous Man, The Crossing, Donald Nally

As I write this the COVID-19 lockdown is in effect for the state of New Jersey, USA. All non-essential business folks are working from home if they can, or otherwise shuttered up until further notice. The highway outside the modest apartment I live in is eerily silent. I cannot help but wonder, "How can music matter at a time like this?" One answer is that it matters no less if you are musical, and those less musical still have the need for it as human beings. We hope, anyway. And in fact other than live music gatherings it is one thing you can keep going with in spite of social distancing. (Not to take that lightly, since many make their livelihood by doing such.)  And so today I listen to a new recording by the superb vocal ensemble the Crossing with Donald Nally conducting.

It is a major work from a major composer in the so-called Minimalist camp, Michael Gordon. It is his a capella choral work Anonymous Man (Canteloupe Music CA21154). Michael wrote both the words and the music.. It is a personal reflection on home and homelessness, life and death, and being with and without. It has to do with living in his NYC neighborhood from the time it was a largely abandoned industrial zone through to its gentrification. It is about several homeless men who lived across from him there.

It has pulsating sections and others that gently overlap themselves within themselves. The mood is thoughtful. Time passes and backtracks. There is the inexorable, somehow.

The Crossing are the ideal group to make of this music something special. And they do. It is not music that is self-evident or predictable, even if you know Michael Gordon's music well. It is the opposite of banal, yet it expresses an experience of things filled with a sameness. It is filled with a ruminative facticity that perhaps fits perfectly the mood of current locked-down stasis within a jarring turn of things to pass.

The music haunts. It is not the expected. Bravo.

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