Friday, May 04, 2012

CCC 029 - Michael Abels

The Consonant Classical Challenge.continues with American composer Michael Abels. Abels came to classical music through his work with gospel artist Rev. James Cleveland. That lead to a project with the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra, and eventually Able was not just arranging, but composing original music in a neo-classical tradition.

Abels incorporates African-American musical gestures into his work, and most of his pieces are clearly tonal throughout. That's not to say they're boring -- far from it. Abel writes with passion and imagination and his works have the ability to get an audience excited about what they're hearing. Delights and Dances was commissioned by the Sphynx Organization, which performs it in this video.

Global Warming is Abels' most successful work. The title refers to the thawing of tensions as the Cold War ended. It weaves together themes representing many cultures from around the world, making it an appealing work even to those who don't normally like classical music -- but its even more effective for those that do.

Another good example of Abels' work is Urban Legends for string quartet and orchestra. As you'll hear, the work echoes the rhythms and energy of hip hop, represented in the language of classical music.

Michael Abels writes interesting and appealing music. Even though they're tonal compositions, these are works that could have not have been written at any time before. The vernacular of African-American popular musics are woven tightly into Abels' works, given them a timeless yet contemporary sound. If an orchestra wanted to wake up its audience (and attract new ones), Abels would be the composer to program.

Recommended Recordings  

African Heritage Symphonic Series, Volume 3

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