Sunday, June 24, 2007

I Shot Andy Warhol Suite

You've got two chunks of music, pal, and you call it a suite? Not having seen I Shot Andy Warhol, I don't know how much material Cale composed, but this is great stuff, and I'd hate to think that a lot more was left on the soundtrack assembly room floor.

What it sounds like is "New York Underground" from 1998's Nico/Dance Music, if it had been written by Phillip Glass. There are two related string ensemble pieces, each one sounding to me like a passacaglia (development of a theme, usually in a minor key, over a ground bass part). There's little in the way of obvious melody; it's all about harmony and counterpoint.

In the first of the pieces, the upper strings sound very much like human voices (characteristic of Glass's work). The violin and viola dominate, starting with a gentle rocking theme. They move away from one another and the harmonies become more strained. Before dissonance actually creeps in, though, they move back into a close, comfortable harmony and the piece ends. My only complaint is that the bass's connection to the rest of the instruments seems tenuous.

The second piece is rhythmic, violent, grim. The theme sounds to be the same, but the viola and cello dominate, with the violin adding only a little light here and there. There's none of the lyricism that the first piece can't resist including, only determination and inevitability. Automation. No flourish or resolution at the end - we're left hanging.

The piece isn't particularly original or noteworthy, I think, and I don't know what it has to do with Andy Warhol or Valerie Solanas. Nevertheless: it's excellent, satisfying listening. It's one of my favorite soundtrack pieces so far, and the first half might be the most frankly beautiful music Cale has written.


Inverarity said...

Hm, there are twelve players? I don't hear twelve instruments, but OK. The Soldier String Quartet seems to be the core of the lineup, though longtime Cale collaborator Mark Deffenbaugh is also involved.

Miakaua said...

I remember the exact moment I listened to this piece, some 10 or 12 years ago. Never I felt so touched by such power, simplicity and elegance. Cale is a master. And a true artist.