DAVID LANG – The Little Match Girl Passion (2009)

Review by: Syd Spence
Album assigned by: Alex Alex

David Lang fancies himself a post-minimalist composer, which i think means new, really really sparse classical music. And Boy is this that! Basically it’s ye olde Hans Christian Anderson story set to a traditionally beautiful choir featuring male and female voices. Also, there are bells and few other non-drum percussion instruments thrown, and God ol mighty is this bad!

Let’s start with the vocals, because that’s the only thing in this whole long tedious piece. It is made up of i think three or so upper to middle range women and one lower man voice, each with operatic perfection. I’m certain that some people would say they are beautiful, what with perfect pitch and timbre, and all those other music conservatory terms, but to my ears it sounds antiquated and bourgeois. When i hear those angelic tones of highly trained opera singers, I just see well to do men and women clapping at the finest in high brow art.

It just doesn’t feel real it feels like bourgeois corruption of the innate creativity of humanity. These voices did not innately turn that way, no one comes from the womb spitting pure tones in operatic sophistication. No, it requires years and years of training and thus a patronage from wealthy benefactors. So with each perfect note, all I hear is a thousand poor ghetto children sleeping in the cold because some rich man likes tarts that sing all classy like. Which is really ironic considering this song is based on a story about a poor little girl who dies of hypothermia. This piece of music won the Pulitzer prize for music the year it was composed. Can’t you just imagine, the bright lights of Carnegie Hall and the who’s who of the cultured intelligentsia coming out to see the latest in high culture from Pulitzer Prize winning David Lang. There they are, dressed in all the accoutrement of learned high society and they sit and they become dazzled by the sopranos and tenors. Then they notice the lyrics and they become touched by that poor dying girl. Oh it’s so sad! Oh the humanity. All the while away the posh Manhattan theatre, poor street youths are struggling in the cold winter air. It’s rich when classical music, born from prestige and wealth, tackles the sorrows of the poor. 

But besides the socioeconomic problems with this piece, I found all the movements too busy. Each of the voices sings like a large paragraph in each stanza and i couldn’t even bathe in their classical beauty. It all sounded really busy and cluttered and pompous. I’m clearly not the audience for this kind of stuff. If you are middle aged tenured college professor that gets hard on’s for Bach and Hans Christian Anderson, then this shit is for you! If you like music that doesn’t sound like it deserves to be in the wastebin of history, then ignore it and buy a Run the Jewels album.

Author: tomymostalas


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