Requiem for the Enslaved by Carlos Simon Jr.

“Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the hope and dream of a slave.” – Maya Angelou

I’m always on the hunt for unique and diverse additions to our music CD collection, especially for less mainstream genres of music. Recently I had the privelege to order Requiem for the Enslaved for our classical music section. Here’s how the creators describe it:

American composer Carlos Simon presents a multi-genre work, Requiem for the Enslaved. This work is a musical tribute to commemorate the stories of 272 enslaved men, women and children sold in 1838 by Georgetown University. Described as a “rap opera,” Carlos infuses his original compositions with African American spirituals and familiar Catholic liturgical melodies. Requiem for the Enslaved explores the sacred and historical, and honors the lives of those bought and sold.

Carlos Simon says: “Since being hired as an Assistant Professor, I have grown to love the Georgetown University community and culture. In learning of the university’s involvement in slavery, I am deeply grateful for the collective efforts taken to understand and attempt to reconcile its tainted past. Now as a member of the Georgetown University community, I wish to join in the journey of expanding the discussion.”

For similar items like this, try Dreams of a new day : songs by black composers with Will Liverman OR Songs of our native daughters with Rhiannon Giddens.

Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki

It’s proven that reading fiction about people different from us helps us build empathy and understanding – Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki was a powerful example of this for me. I feel I know so much more about trans women’s experiences and Asian culture in California after reading this book. It’s also a genre-bending, compassionate, hopeful look at Faustian bargains, intergalactic refugees, and family of all kinds.

Violinist Shizuka Satomi has a deal with Hell – she’ll win back her soul and her ability to play music if she delivers seven souls to Hell. After years of work she’s carefully selected, molded, and delivered six, with just enough time before her deadline for the last one. But her final student isn’t what she expected – Katrina Nguyen is an abused, terrified runaway, a trans girl with no confidence, no hope, and nowhere to go. But when she plays her violin, the music is indescribable. Shizuka takes Katrina into her home and starts to teach her, only to find her own world and heart irrevocably changed by this unexpected and gentle girl. At the same time, she finds herself growing closer to the enigmatic Lan Tran, owner of a donut shop, mother of four, and alien refugee in disguise. All three women have battles to fight, and will have to lean on each other and learn to let go of their pasts to find a new way forward.

There are so many reasons to love this book, from the descriptive prose to the vivid characters. It’s an unflinching portrait of a trans girl’s experiences, but hopeful at every turn, flouting tropes, conventions, and the expectations you might have for a book about trauma and deals with the devil. There’s all kinds of families on offer here, including found family helping each other heal from their old wounds, choosing kindness, connection, and tender care over fear and conflict. The blend of genres is innovative and mostly effective, as the supernatural melds with sci-fi and contemporary fiction, with a hint of sapphic romance. Aoki not only makes these elements stand together, but also uses the combination to hold up a mirror to our complex, diverse society that struggles to see, understand, and respect the myriad experiences being lived around us. Perhaps most powerful is the strong thread of feminism running through the story as multiple women grapple with generational trauma and patriarchy that has been harming them, and find their own way out and into a place of power and self-trust.

If you like stories of classical musicians finding their voice, urban sci-fi, Good Omens-style fantasy, pacifist themes, the young and old teaching each other valuable lessons, and/or queer romances and coming of age stories, this would be a great book for you.

Silver Lining Suite by Hiromi

The Silver Lining Suite by Hiromi is a fascinating set of original pieces by a rising Japanese star of piano and jazz composition, which come together in a suite that defies categorization. Here’s how a publisher describes it:

Hiromi’s latest album pairs her virtuosic and emotive piano with a string quartet assembled by violinist Tatsuo Nishie, concertmaster of the New Japan Philharmonic. Devised for a series of live-streamed concerts at the Blue Note Tokyo during the Covid pandemic, the results blur the lines between classical music and jazz, crafting a vibrant hybrid possessed of the fervent, rock-inspired energy and cinematic beauty that Hiromi has always instilled in her music.”

I found this an engaging album with appealing and melodic instrumentals, executed with energy and thoughtfulness. The quintet was well-balanced, giving enough focus to the piano but not skimping on the strings. Best of all it really is a genre-blender, both dignified and playful, classical and jazzy, but all-around an original.

You can experience this CD as a discovery of a skillful modern jazz and classical composer, or use it as an interesting background to your everyday activities (not recommended for car trips, because road noise makes it a challenge to fully experience the nuances).

Don’t miss this clever and relaxing jazz fusion album!

Recently Added: Dark Horse Debuts

I can’t imagine breaking into the music industry in the midst of a global pandemic, but these brave artists have done it, with vibrant, personal, and unique sets of music. From country to classical-pop fusion to jazz, here are three fresh solo artists you won’t want to miss.

Good Time by Niko Moon is a debut album, but not the first music Moon has been part of: Niko Moon has written songs for a number of high-profile country bands, including Zac Brown Band, Diercks Bentley, Rascall Flatts, and more. He also helped start the group Sir Rosevelt, but Good Time is his first album of all solo original music. He caught my attention with this quirky cover art that reminds me of Nirvana or Twenty One Pilots.

 

Chloe Flower’s self-titled album is not only her solo music debut, but it’s also the first entry in her self-created musical genre: popsical (pop + classical). This means she features not only skilled and moving instrumentals, but also hip hop beats and other popular music elements. She’s been working on this album a long time, but was (like us all) irrevocably changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Me, I’m a sucker for classical crossover so I’m excited for this one.

 

Yellow by Emma-Jean Thackray is a “transcendent” jazz album which seeks to capture the shared human experience. The British Thackray incorporates a number of influences, including 1970s fusion music, P-Funk, Alice Coltrane, and the Beach Boys. I don’t listen to a ton of jazz but those influences and that cover? I’m already on board.

Key Changes: New Classical Music

Some great new classical music has been added to the collection lately! The reigning theme is: fresh takes on tradition. Check out some of the great possibilities below.

Bach Cello Suites vol. 2 (arranged for guitar) by Jeffrey McFadden takes some of the most famous classical cello music ever written and puts a new twist on it – arrangement for guitar. In a new medium, the full harmonic complexity of the composition is on display, making this a worthy addition to the recordings of these pieces. Volume 1 coming soon.

 

The Art of the Mandolin by Avi Avital is definitely not something you see every day – an album comprised entirely of works written for the mandolin! Drawing from famous composers like Vivaldi and Beethoven, as well as contemporary composers including the performer himself, the album celebrates the mandolin in its unique glory.

 

Debussy & Ravel with the London Symphony Orchestra explores mystery, fantasy, and stirring odysseys through the work of two composers: Ravel, who explores his Spanish heritage in the Rapsodie espagnole, and Debussy, who creates mystic, free, and wild worlds in the Prelude de L’apres-midi d’un faune and La mer. Discover the subtleties and nuance of classical compositions.

 

Time by Jess Gillam is the second album by the award-winning saxophonist, following 2019’s Rise. This album strives to emulate and evoke the rising and falling energies over the course of a day, and echoes a wide variety of styles and influences. It promises an immersive sound experience and a time for reflection.

 

Not Our First Goat Rodeo by Stuart Duncan edges into the world of classical crossover, with chamber music melding with country, folk, and blues. This light-hearted ensemble features the cello stylings of Yo-Yo Ma, and promises a boundary-breaking good time. It’s a follow-up to the 2011 album Goat Rodeo Sessions, also available.

 

John Williams in Vienna with the Wiener Philharmonic takes the classic soundtrack music of John Williams, and sets it in the stirring instrumentals of a philharmonic orchestra. Take an emotional and nostalgic journey with this star-studded program! Includes music of Indiana Jones, E.T., Luke Skywalker, and more.

Key Changes: New Classical Crossovers

I grew up listening to a lot of classical music because of my parents, and only developed a love for pop music later. This has given me a unique perspective on music, and a love for a genre that’s a bit obscure but super fun if you’re a music nerd like me. It’s usually called Classical Crossovers, and it’s what happens when instruments and groups that typically play classical music play… NOT classical music, whether that’s pop music, rock music, soundtracks, etc. How this works depends on the group and the music they’re covering. I like it because the different instrumentation puts a unique twist on a familiar melody. Here are a few examples of this genre, recently ordered for the library.

Disney Goes Classical by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is an album where a symphony orchestra plays beloved Disney songs, from movies like The Lion King, Moana, Frozen, and more. It also features guest artists who are some of the best classical musicians today, including Matteo Bocelli,  Renee Fleming, and more. If you’re looking to relive your childhood or experience the magic of Disney in a different way, check out this album for a classy journey down memory lane.

10 by the Piano Guys probably needs no introduction; The Piano Guys have been an Internet sensation for a long time with their amazing covers of popular songs and mashups with both popular and classical tracks. In this album, they celebrate 10 years of making music with new covers as well as some of their greatest hits. They always adapt the original song to work perfectly with their instruments (piano and cello) and the songs on this album are no exception.

Alive by David Garrett is the newest album from an acclaimed violinist known for his violin covers of rock and popular songs. In this album, he has created a collection of his favorite soundtrack music, which runs the gamut from Disney songs like Beauty and the Beast and Let it Go to dramatic hits like Shallow, all the while staying true to his roots as a classical musician.

New CD’s for August

Bon Jovi — Burning Bridges

With millions of albums sold and thousands of successful concerts, Bon Jovi has earned their place among rock royalty. Now the band is back with their ninth studio album, their first new release since 2013’s What About Now.

 

 

 

Luke Bryan — Kill the Lights

KILL THE LIGHTS is the follow up to Luke s most successful album to date, Crash My Party, which contains six consecutive No. 1 singles, is certified Double Platinum and has currently sold over two million copies with eight million digital downloads.
Carly Rae Jepsen — Emotion

For her latest album, Carly Rae Jepsen collaborates with some of the biggest producers and songwriters, including Sia. The first single, I Really Like You, has already racked up millions of views online and extensive radio play.

 

 

Rend Collective — As Family We Go

Hailing from Ireland, Rend Collective is one of the Christian music’s most exciting new acts. Their latest studio record features engaging, upbeat worship that brings listeners closer to God. It also includes the radio hit You Will Never Run.

 

 

 

Rob Thomas — The Great Unknown

Multiple Grammy Award winner, and Matchbox Twenty frontman, Rob Thomas releases his first new solo album in more than six years. The highly anticipated album includes the new single Trust You.

 

 

 

 

The Weeknd — Beauty Behind the Madness

Two years after releasing Kiss Land, the Weeknd returns with his third full-length studio album, which includes the singles Can’t Feel My Face; The Hills; and Often..

 

 

 

Wilco — Star Wars

Wilco follows up their Grammy-nominated 2012 album, The Whole Love, with their ninth studio effort. Among the tracks is the new single Random Name Generator.

 

 

 

Yo-Yo Ma & Kathryn Stott — Songs from the Arc of Life

 

Longtime friends, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Kathryn Stott, create a unique classical music experience with their new recording. It includes pieces they have frequently performed but never recorded, as well as a handful of discoveries.

When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky

met nijinsky

When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky by Lauren Stringer: This is the story of how the famous composer, Stravinsky, and the famous dancer, Nijinsky, collaborated to create a performance of Stravinsky’s work that was so shockingly avant-garde that it caused a riot in the streets of Paris.* Can you imagine a ballet so shocking that it caused fistfights and screaming matches across the aisles of a sophisticated French theater in 1913? Astounding!

This book is to be read with “The Rite of Spring” playing in the background or not at all – the illustrations complement the music in a way that’s truly special. It’s so necessary to really enjoying the book that I’m a little mad it doesn’t include a CD, but of course you can always get the music independently from the library – whether you want it on CD or if you want to download it directly from Freegal!

when stravinsky“The Rite of Spring” is the music playing during the death-of-the-dinosaurs segment in Disney’s Fantasia, or as my childhood self knew it, “one of the scary parts!” This is powerful music, and accompanied by powerful, beautiful illustrations, this book is one to check out.

 *Please note: the library cannot be held responsible for any damage done to your home or car by riots this book/music may cause.