Some music is meant to be heard; some is meant to be experienced
. Paul Minotto, with his primeTime sublime Community Orchestra, has created a work that blends elements of new music, easy listening, film music, Chinese music, altered television ads and more into a series of collages called A Life in a Day of a Microorganism
; the result definitely falls in the latter category, an album that requires the listener’s complete attention.
Guitarist Allan Holdsworth released an album a few years ago with the subtitle “Music from a Non-Existent Soundtrack”; the title is far more applicable here, as the pieces are more inherently cinematic in scope. Like Brian Woodbury’s recent Variety Orchestra , a multitude of influences are subsumed, mixed in a blender and poured out through a funnel in strange and unusual ways. “Bimbo Mambo” features elements of Cuban music that emerge, periodically, from orchestral passages that are a bit like new music meets Aaron Copland. If there’s a precedent for the absurd sense of humour here, it is in Erik Satie’s “Parade,” which similarly mixed high melodrama and droll themes with found sounds and an oblique point of view.
The focal point of the album is the three-movement title track, which has an alien race looking down on the typical American family, describing it for documentary purposes. With a narration that is part ‘50s newsreel, part Zappa and completely fatuous, the family awakens from their respective dreams (“Dad is back in dreamland; he is on an unknown tropical island...he is the only man floating on a fluffy cloud...surround by young nubile, half-naked female natives who tend to his most animalistic needs...one dances exotically, while another massages...Oh! There goes the alarm clock again”); prepares for the day with thirteen helpings of eggs before going to school (“where the goal of production is money so one doesn’t have to go to school”) and work (“the goal in work is more money, so one doesn’t have work”). While the daughter, the smartest in her class and obsessed with world domination, attends Nuclear Physics and Terrorist Tactics 101; the son, less ambitious, meets up with Roscoe, also known as “Jive Turkey” to exchange money for a plastic bag, “learning about the value of money through a successful business transaction.” And so it goes.
Completely conceived and considered, there is something guiltily engrossing about it. The album’s sometimes incongruous references come together in the aural equivalent of a sitcom. Or a drama. Or, sometimes, both within seconds.
A Life in a Day of a Microorganism is not an album you’d put on at parties; scratch that, with the right group of people, this might make the perfect party record. An intriguing combination that somehow manages to just plain work , it’s clear that Minotto has an irreverent sense of humour that makes for engaging listening that might offend the PC faction; but as Minotto says, “Lighten up, will Ya? You’ll live longer and be happier.”
Visit primeTime sublime on the web.
Personnel: Complete personnel unlisted; project conceived, written, designed and produced by Paul Minotto