Kitty Brazelton’s Modern Oratorio ECCLESIASTES

You may know of Brazelton from a composer of opera, choral, chamber and orchestral
works, as well as a rock singer/bandleader and high-tech “savant.” Her
bands-Hildegurls (Lincoln Center Festival), Dadadah (The Knitting Fac-
tory, Rolling Stone), What Is It Like To Be A Bat? (Tzadik Records, Gramo-
phone, The Stone), Musica Orbis (Billboard, Harvard’s Sanders Theater),
and Hide the Babies (CBGB’s)-have brought her worldwide acclaim,
while her CD “Chamber Music for the Inner Ear” featuring performances
by the Manhattan Brass Quintet, California EAR Unit and members of
Kristjan Järvi’s Absolute Ensemble, garnered her an NPR cameo. Most
recently, Boosey & Hawkes published “O Joy!” for SATB choir, while her
latest opera “Cat’s Tale,” libretto by the late George Plimpton, received a
mid-summer premiere at the Central Park Zoo.

Kitty Brazelton calls this latest CD “a modern oratorio.”

An “oratorio”-or liturgical opera-because the CD tells a story from the
bible. The story is about time: its beginning, its ending.

Except that Qoholeth, the writer of Ecclesiastes, didn’t believe in these.
Like the Egyptians and the Hindus of his time (as Brazelton discovered
when she re-translated his words from their Hebrew-Aramaic and Latin
sources), he believed: That which has been is now, and that which is to
be has already been. Hence the famous passage “to every thing, there
is a season…” Contrary to the traditional Christian projection, Brazelton
is sure that Qoholeth did not believe in an afterlife, a belief that was
adopted by the Hebrews a little after his early 2nd-century BCE authoring
of Ecclesiastes.

But the music goes far beyond the words in the story it tells. Here
time begins and ends and does neither-all at once. Led by Brazelton,
four male vocalists (David Bryan, countertenor, John Brauer, tenor,
Keith Borden, baritone and Mark Lin, bass), a cellist, Matt Goeke, and
percussionist, Alex Vittum, traverse the drama of time, singing, bowing,
plucking, sticking, bell-playing, hammering the dulcimer, thundering the
great concert bass drum, improvising, scatting, getting loud, getting soft,
sometimes with words, sometimes without.

Brazelton wraps her sextet in drones and soundtrack collages of “found”
sounds made by the performers themselves, which she has altered,
fractured and recombined to create an organic aura-like reflection and
extension of the live subject.

So the CD is “modern” because it involves the use of technology in
primary music-making.

And sometimes Kitty herself croons the ancient words she has so thought-
fully translated, renewing them with modern meaning as intimate and
cyclically relevant as their author intended. For more thoughts on this,
proceed to Kitty’s blog: “reading ecclesiastes through the kaleidoscope of
time & belief.”

Author: James McQuiston

Ph.D. in Political Science, Kent State University. I have been the editor at NeuFutur / neufutur.com since I was 15. Looking for new staff members all the time; email me if you are interested. Thanks!

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