Daniel Stephen Johnson was born in the desert and learned to play the violin. After studying viola and English at the University of Southern California, he wrote fiction at Columbia University. Then he moved to Connecticut, where he worked at a record shop and wrote about music, literature and comedy for the New Haven Advocate and the Believer. Now he lives in Bedford–Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and works as a sheet music salesman in Queens.
Janus Trio's 'Book of Memory'
Monday, January 02, 2017
Finally! The chamber group known as Janus is responsible for one of 2010's most delightful releases in any genre, I Am Not. Now the flute/viola/harp trio (Amanda Baker, Beth Meyers, and Nuiko Wadden, respectively) has emerged with a second full-length, Book of Memory, and it is a charmer.
Book of Memory, out now on New Focus Recordings, sees the trio reunited with composer Jason Treuting – better known as one of the four players in So Percussion – whose I Am Not (Blank) was the thread running through Janus's first album. The closely related piece he offers here, entitled Pluck, Blow, Bow, requires that the trio pick up multiple instruments, including banjo and melodica, as well as speak aloud in hocketing patterns.
The rest of the album is given over to the titular piece by Paul Lansky, a composer most famous for such electronic works as his delicious Idle Chatter series of gibberish pieces and for the looped sample of Mild und Leise, his first computer piece, that found its way onto Radiohead's Kid A album. But unlike so many of his celebrated peers, Lansky emerged from the electronic music research laboratories of the 1960s not to smash music into subatomic particles of integrally serializable information, but rather to explore the grammar of Western harmony and rhythm.
No wonder, then, that in recent decades, Lansky has turned to composing for live performers. Treuting's So Percussion, for whom Lansky wrote the large-scale Threads, is a notable example, but the titular piece on Book of Memory allows him to indulge fully his most neoclassical impulses. This fondly nostalgic suite also calls on the ever-adventurous Janus to pluck, blow, bow, sing, and play just a little percussion, managing to reward both the boundless versatility and the clear, intense focus of aesthetic purpose that they display throughout both their jewel of a debut and its more than welcome successor.
Janus: Book of Memory
New Focus Recordings | Released Nov. 11
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