Varese – Nocturnal, Ecuatorial

Lazarof – Structures Sonores

1968 – Vanguard Cardinal Series

 

Side 1: Varese

 

Like many of the other Varese compositions I have heard, “Nocturnal” is heavy with percussion (perfect!). Space is used effectively here. There will be long tones, then a ramping up of quick rhythms on percussion, and then deep voices that crescendo in. It reminds me of the soundtrack to “the Omen”. It just feels creepy, like what you would expect a ritual sacrifice to sound like. The interplay between the percussion, vocals, and horn swells really sets this composition apart. They feed off each other to give structure to the mood of the piece. “Ecuatorial” features an ondes martenot, which is an early electronic instrument similar to the theremin (I had to look it up). It functions perfectly in cranking the creep factor to 11. Please note that I don’t mean the comparisons to horror movies as a dig, I really love that music. These pieces seem to take that style and mix it with some modern classical music concepts to make a finished product that is awesome!

 

Side 2: Lazarof

 

I am not familiar with Henri Lazarof, but after listening to this piece, I will definitely be searching out more of his work. This composition is a perfect B side to the Varese pieces. It has some of the same characteristics; use of space, percussion, and creepiness. This piece, unlike the Varese, is based on pitches and tonality, however dissonant they may be. It relies on a full orchestra, as opposed to the percussion/vocal/brass ensemble. Some of the chord choices here are brilliant, after quick passages, a chord will be held out by the strings that chill you to the bone. There is a point near the end of the piece, where the piano trades runs with the rest of the orchestra. There is so much tension that is built and released in the 10-15 seconds while this happens. Also, the last chord features all 12 notes in the Western scale played all at once, which is pretty cool to hear. There are some really cool things that have been done with music in a classical setting within the last 50 years, this piece is one of them!

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