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Culture Watch: 'On Cold Mountain: Songs on Poems of Gary Snyder'

May 25, 2011 |  6:30 am

Cold Mountain "On Cold Mountain: Songs on Poems of Gary Snyder" (Innova)

This recording features recent songs by four composers –- Ray Whelden, Fred Frith, Robert Morris and W.A. Mathieu –- to texts by the Northern California Beat poet Gary Snyder, who will make a rare local appearance reading at the main branch of the Los Angeles Public Library, in its ALOUD lecture series, on Thursday.

The musical styles can range from faux Baroque to post-Minimalism, but they all properly and provocatively capture the luminosity of Snyder’s language, his sense of nature connected to the moment, his evocation of the spiritual essence of the West. And the East: many of the songs set Snyder’s elegant translations from the Chinese of the Tang dynasty Zen poet Han-shan.

The performances by contralto Karen Clark (best known for her pure-voiced early music performances) and the Galax Quartet (a string quartet that specializes in new music) are sensitive to word, pitch, tone and sentiment.

-- Mark Swed