Sunday, January 20, 2008

Regrettin' the Error

This review came out more than a few days ago, but I thought this was still worth mentioning:
Between Ms. Higdon’s works, Yousif Sheronick, a percussionist in the Ethos Percussion Group, played his own transcription of the piano line in 3 of the 11 movements of “John’s Book of Alleged Dances,” by John Adams. Percussion works here: Mr. Sheronick replaced the homogenous piano timbre with the hollow but exotic sound of what looked like a makeshift xylophone, and the quartet brought ample swing to Mr. Adams’s alternately bluesy and mechanistic passages.

I love this mistake because it's that rare instance where a word as seemingly subjective as "homogenous" can be said to have been used in a fashion that is factually incorrect. The "piano line" in the original version of the Adams is actually a tape made from samples of a prepared piano line, so that every note already has a different timbre from every other note. "John," of the title, isn't just John Adams, it's also John Cage, who invented this trick for making an ordinary piano sound "hollow but exotic" (and while I'm picking nits, do we really need that "but"?). My guess: Kozinn hasn't heard or doesn't remember the original version and is just BSin' for our benefit.

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