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Our writers are usually busy covering performances. Coronavirus changed that. Here are their suggestions for what to watch, read or listen to while we’re housebound.
Experimental and Luminous
The saxophonist and composer Roscoe Mitchell is best known as a founding member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. But even when operating outside that pan-stylistic group, his approach contains multitudes. When I reviewed Mitchell’s concerts at the Park Avenue Armory in 2019, I marveled at his solo-saxophone heroics and meditative chamber music designs.
The composer’s latest record, released this week on the Wide Hive label, affords us an even broader view. Most jaw-dropping is the 20-minute title track, “Distant Radio Transmission,” performed here by Mitchell and a 33-piece orchestra conducted by Petr Kotik. Like many of Mitchell’s recent orchestral opuses, this one has its roots in earlier, improvised trio recordings. (After the improvised version of this track was transcribed and partially orchestrated by associates of the composer, Mitchell completed the full orchestration in 2017.)
What was once sparely avant-garde is now luminously experimental. Electronics join with tart wind harmonies and resonant pitched percussion during the opening. The baritone Thomas Buckner — a veteran of Robert Ashley’s operas — brings abstract, ghostly exhalations to the mix, later on. Around the halfway point, when a stretch of Mitchell’s striated soprano-saxophone ornamentations gives way to jaunty patterns in the wider orchestra, there is a sense of a singular intelligence at work.
The world of theater can be moving, soul-stirring and thought-provoking.
Also vain, backbiting and downright ludicrous.
“Slings & Arrows” captures all of these facets in all their glory. And the cult Canadian series has recently become available for streaming on Acorn TV, which just extended its free-trial offer from seven to 30 days (enter the code FREE30).
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