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Jacob's Ladder

Noah Creshevsky

When you've been in this business for as long as I have, it's easy to get cynical and imagine that you've heard it all. You haven't, and you never will. All definitive declarations (including, above all, the claim that anything is the "greatest") are a priori bullshit due to the inherently finite nature of human knowledge. This is grounds not for cynicism, but for the humble and unceasing cultivation of our capacity for wonder and our human right to new experiences.

The music of Noah Creshevsky, which I discovered after reading his essay "Hyperrealism, Hyperdrama, Superperformers, and Open Palette" in volume two of John Zorn's Arcana anthology, is both staggering in the demented surety of its artistic vision and, like much of the music that I love, somehow dead-ass familiar upon first listen. In pieces such as Jacob's Ladder (created in 1999 and released on the 2003 album Hyperrealism), I'm hearing the approximation of the musical ideals that haunted the 20th century, from Pierre Schaeffer's dream of a new sonic language built on the basis of recorded fragments—a "solfège of the sound object," as he called it—to the compositional logic of timbral transitions envisioned in Arnold Schoenberg's notion of Klangfarbenmelodie (tone-color melody).

Creshevsky's compositional process begins with the cultivation of libraries of custom-made samples (rather than the more common "found sounds" approach), which he montages into delicately structured musical organisms—"Frankenstein's monsters," or perhaps better, exquisite corpses! The result, at once tightly controlled and always threatening to overflow the limits of its form, could be described as a kind of electronic maximalism, an all-out assault on the aesthetics of scarcity that dominate so much modern and modernist music. In his own words (which are as singularly colorful as his music):

We need to conserve endangered species, and clean water and air. Nothing is saved when we save a note. Sometimes (often—especially in an information-rich age), less is not more; more is more. [...] Economy of means is by no means an obvious virtue. On the contrary, the rejection of bounty is a questionable act of nonerotic flagellation. Deprivation in itself is no virtue.
Noah Creshevsky


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