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Spooky Actions: Early Music

Jim Santella By

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Spooky Actions may seem an unusual name for a chamber quartet that makes serious study of music and interprets these thoughts with a unique spirit. The name is derived from a comment by Albert Einstein where he noted that certain seemingly unrelated objects could nevertheless exert a powerful influence upon each other. He called these relationships "spooky actions."

Along with Early Music, Spooky Actions has issued projects interpreting Native American melodies and the music of Anton Webern.

This program interprets music from periods as early as the Second Century BC. The works of Hildegard Von Bingen (1098-1179), Guillaume Dufay (1397-1474), and Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) offer definitive examples from music history. The quartet has included Gregorian chant, Byzantine chant, and one secular piece that was found engraved on a very old tombstone.

Featuring John Gunther's melodic soprano saxophone and Bruce Arnold's lyrical guitar for the most part, the quartet's program merely interprets this early music with sincere devotion. Arnold's processed guitar shows up in places, however, lending an unusual texture to the mix. As with early vocal chants, his guitar is able to express devotional feelings intuitively. Guitar wails and moans accompany Gunther's pure melodies, bass and drums adding a strong foundation.

Monteverdi's "Canzonets" dance lightly with a gentle air. Von Bingen's music and Dufay's early work provide similar examples with the gentle refrain of flute and soprano saxophone, respectively. Arnold's guitar takes on a mellow role for these pieces as they offer soothing melodies.

Gunther's bass clarinet interprets the "Easter Sunday" ode, while his tenor saxophone lends a mysterious quality to "Gregorian Chant." For both of these pieces, Arnold uses a processed electric guitar that moves in and out of the eerie, mystic quality found in world music. Like the heart and lungs moving in and out, his guitar pulses evenly with a persistent motion that allows the four artists to come together naturally with seamless ease.

The oldest piece of music, the "Epitaph of Seiklilos," receives an interpretation that recalls the spirit the Dave Brubeck quartet injected into "Blue Rondo a la Turk." It's a pleasant jazz treatment that employs flute, guitar, bass, and drums in a circle of mesmerizing melodies and serves as the album's high point.

Elsewhere, Spooky Actions combines jazz with light chamber music that reflects the best of both worlds. Lovely melodies are dressed in rhythmic arrangements that bridge the time span of millennia.


Track Listing: De Virginibus O Nobilissima Viriditas; Vergine Bella; Canzonet 1, 2, & 3 (from 21 canzonets for 3 instruments); Gregorian Chant, Introit, Gaudeamus Omnes; Epitaph of Seikilos; Alleluya (Nativitas); Ode from the Kanon for Easter Sunday.

Personnel: Bruce Arnold- electric processed guitar; John Gunther- flute, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Kirk Driscoll- drums, percussion; Mike Richmond- bass, cello.

Title: Early Music | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Muse Eek

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