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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Luciano Berio / Swingle II -"A-Ronne" / "Cries of London" (Decca) Vinyl 1976

Not only am I a Swingle Singers fan, especially when they are performing Bach via only their voices - but also admire the fact that the group broke off, went to London, and became Swingle II.  Here they team up with composer Luciano Berio to do two vocal pieces.  

"A-Ronne" is based on words/poetry by Italian poet Edoardo Sanguineti.   But also includes works by Karl Marx, James Joyce, Dante, Goethe, the Bible, T.S. Eliot, Samuel Beckett, and a quotation of Roland Barthe on Georges Bataille.  According to Berio, this is a documentary on Sanguinity's poem.  Nevertheless, since the work is mostly in Italian, I may be missing key elements, but still, it's a great piece of work.  The layer of voices at times reminds me of classic Beach Boys, but of course, in a very different manner. There are moments of great beauty, and at times it has a Fluxus touch in being absurd.  Over-all, even though it is only voices, the piece is very melodic and one does not need to read or understand Italian to enjoy this recording.  Without stating the obvious, Swingle II is quite magnificent.  Their range and them being open-minded in approaching new music are pretty amazing.  

Side two is "Cries in London," and it is in English.  In fact, it's very much a documentary of sorts on London merchant life perhaps centuries ago - or in 1976 (the recording of this album)?  Merchant life on the streets of London hasn't changed that much.   I suspect that Berio had an interest in Marx, and I have to imagine that "Cries of London" deals with the merchant class, and their daily struggle to survive.   To quote the liner notes: "the text is essentially a free choice of well-known phrases of vendors in the streets of Old London." It's an amazing piece of music for 8 voices.