Thursday, March 15, 2012

Aaron Novik Secret of Secrets Tzadik 2012

Pushing musical buttons and in this particular case boundaries is how I roll. Aaron Novik is clarinetist/composer who calls the Bay area home. Secrets of Secrets may be his most powerful work to date and is one of the occasional sonic side roads less traveled that I enjoy blazing a trail through. After all where else are you going to find a project that combines Jewish gematria with modern classical techniques? Secrets of Secrets is broken down into five distinct movements for a strikingly original reading of Kabbalah where elements of rock, classical improvisation and world music are mysteriously fused into a dynamic visionary sound scape of emotionally charged texture and subtle dynamics.

For the uninitiated to the Jewish faith which is certainly not a pre-requisite for appreciation of this work, Secrets of Secrets is an inspirational investigation of the 13th century Kabbalistic text: A quest for God and meaning in a brutal, unforgiving world. Certainly as timely a piece of subject matter as anything coming out of the pop music camps of the soon to be musical footnotes of today. Another way to describe this epic work would be to take some of the basic elements of traditional Jewish folk music including the rhythmic and harmonic bases and arrange these for the more modern contemporary climate of society today.

While the first movement opens with a mysterious somewhat methodical approach, there is a minimalist nature of less is more allowing for the dynamic tension that gradually builds to create a more lasting effect. This haunting sonic sound of creation lends its way into the second piece focusing on the secrets that are beyond the grasp of man on earth. The celestial beings are summoned forth with the third movement with the fourth movement having all parties invoking the Divine One. Closing with a blistering speed metal shred-a-thon there is the other worldly "Secrets of Formation."

Sound, genre, harmony, rhythm are all transcended among themselves as they become their own cultural by-product. Jewish mysticism as practised by some celebrities in pop culture may be watered down at best. Aaron Novik commands a brilliant sonic exploration of the book "Secrets of Secrets" by Rabbi Eleazer Rokeach has the end result is a dazzling sonic display for those with an open mind and a desire to fully cleanse their sonic palette.

Tracks: Secrets of Creation; Secrets of the Divine World; Secrets of the Divine Chariot; Secrets of the Holy Name; Secrets of Formation.

Fred Frith: Guitar
Ben Goldberg: Contra-alto Clarinet, Clarinet
Carla Kihlstedt: Electric Violin
Cornelius Boots: Robot Bass Clarinet
Matthias Bossi: Batterie
Jamie Dubberly: Bass Trombone
Henry Hung: Flugelhorn, Trumpet, Marching French Horn
Jessica Ivry: Cello
Aaron Kierbel: Dumbek
Dina Maccabee: Viola
Lisa Mezzacappa: Bass
Doug Morton: Tuba
Aaron Novik: Electric Clarinet, Percussion, Programming
Alisa Rose: Violin
Irene Sazer: Violin
Adam Theis: Trombone
Willie Winant: Tympani, Vibraphone, Glockenspiel, Gong, Tubular Bells