Monday, September 25, 2023

Misfire: A Haunting in Venice

Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot once again, in A Haunting in Venice.

A Haunting in Venice is the third Hercule Poirot adaptation written by Michael Green and directed by Kenneth Branagh, who stars once again as the impeccably mustachioed Belgian detective. This one claims to be based on a late (1969) Agatha Christie called Hallowe’en Party, but Christie’s plot has been uprooted and replaced with a completely different one; in fact, aside from the name of the murderer and the Halloween fĂȘte that opens the story, there’s no overlap. (The book doesn’t take place in Venice and it contains no haunting.) That’s rather weird but no loss, since it’s not one of her better mysteries. The problem is, the film alters it without improving on it. It’s a disappointment after last year’s Poirot, a juicy remake of Death on the Nile.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

At the Threshold: The Unmoored Dreaming

Album cover art: Bjorn Vandenneucker
“What is typical of our century and largely promoted by the media, is the general belief that everything that is broadcast or distributed must be instantly comprehensible. But that is an enormous misconception. It is rooted in the assumption that there is such a thing as an audience. We must correct this view and make it clear that people are individuals, each of whom is following a unique path toward learning and development and free to make personal choices. So let us be less eager to teach and to prescribe rules, and rather just say: ‘If you want to listen, you can; here are the recordings and scores. We give concerts; we will provide information. But whether or not you come or you are interested is your own business.”
– Karlheinz Stockhausen, “Every Day Brings New Discoveries” (1991)

New music, and I do mean new, has arrived in our space-time continuum. And poised, rather gracefully I might add, somewhere between the free jazz traditions of Ornette Coleman and Anthony Braxton, and the new music domains of George Crumb and John Cage. Yes, this is lofty territory, but these two composer-performers hold their own in the rarified atmospheres I’ve often delineated as soundtracks for an imaginary film, or national anthems for a utopian country. In this case, the country is a multi-cultural effort. The Unmoored Dreaming is a free jazz group consisting of Goncalo Oliveira, a Portuguese guitarist based in Den Haag, and Bjorn Vandenneucker, a double bass player and composer based in Brussels, that explores its mutually created repertoire in an expansive and open format. Open is the operative word here, since their charming music doesn’t so much begin or end as simply happen. And elegantly so.

The Unmoored Dreaming is also the title of their eleven-piece debut album, the result of what the duo call their “reinless traveling through sonic landscapes,” which was released on Bandcamp in April of 2023. As disparate as jazz and serialism might at first appear to be, the tangible and even haptic link between them is clearly the delivery of multiple tempos played simultaneously. The individual pieces in the recording from this daringly confident collaborative duo are also linked as in a suite of sonatas, though each work also stands comfortably alone on its own. Their partnership itself is also identified with and embodied by that evocative name, which captures the shared motive and aesthetic agenda of their initial release, recorded, mixed and produced by Manolo Cabras at Studio Noyer in Brussels.