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Spooky Actions: Music of Webern

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Whether you’ll like Spooky Actions’ Music of Webern depends greatly on whether you like Webern, so let’s start there. Even before he converted to the serialism of his teacher Arnold Schoenberg, Anton Webern had taken eagerly to atonal composition. Webern wrote compressed pieces in which single notes stand out from thin textures and achieve great intensity, helped by an exacting approach to timbre. Webern never supplies an obvious logic to connect those single notes; listeners feel the gaps and build their own bridges. Listening to Webern is something like reading surrealist poetry: suggestive, enigmatic and often fascinating.

Spooky Actions–John Gunther on flute, saxophone and clarinet; Bruce Arnold on “processed electric guitar”; Peter Herbert on bass; and Tony Moreno on drums–has transcribed Webern’s early-period five movements for string quartet and five canons and supplied its own improvisations on these brief pieces for Music of Webern. But these men aren’t trying to make this most abstract of composers into a swingin’ jazz cat; they address Webern’s music on its own terms and shed new light on its strange beauty.

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