Organon Novus - Contemporary Organ Works By Americ

Album cover art for upc 726708695927
Catalog: INN959

Harlow, Randall; Burns, Stephen; Grabowski, Randy; Andreini, Matt

The “King of Instruments,” the pipe organ, has a long and storied history. Its long association with the church has been a source of strength but also, in recent times, led to its seeming neglect by contemporary concert composers. Organon Novus is a monumental effort to bring together this hidden slice of American music. Clocking in at over three hours of music, and running the gamut from Adler to Zorn, it includes 25 works from the past 25 years by 25 celebrated composers – composers not often associated with their organ oeuvre. With 8,565 pipes in 132 ranks available to them, the 1928 E.M. Skinner symphonic organ in Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago is no modest resource for a composer’s imagination (not to mention a player’s active limbs). Randall Harlow, in this marathon tour de force, reaches them all. Compositional approaches range from the sonic tapestries of Thomas and Zorn, to the linear complexity of Adler and Mamlok; from the full-bodied symphonic approaches of Ran and Tower, to the eclectic and unique voices of Lang, Johnson, Lucier and Wolff. The album concludes with the premiere of Aaron Travers’ monumental Barlow Prize work, Exodus. Exploring the extremes of what is possible on the organ, the work offers a way forward for the instrument in contemporary art music, an exit from the common modern associations of the organ with churches and staid liturgical Gebrauchsmusik. Organon, “the device”: the original Greek word for the pipe organ from the third century BCE. Novus, “the new.” From its beginnings as a noise maker to its apotheosis as a contrapuntal keyboard-controlled orchestra, all coupled with the acoustic and architecture of its location, the organ can be many things. This musical snapshot is both a chronicle and a revelation.

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