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David Loeb Gaunkyo


David Loeb Gaunkyo

5 March 2021 / William Anderson / Announcements, On the Beat, Compositions, recodings, composers

RSF/Marsyas is hoping to include this on an upcoming release of music by David Loeb.


for sho and viol quartet

In Gaunkyo David Loeb combines the Japanese shō with archaic Western string instruments–viols. Likewise, modal melodies and harmonies both Asian and Western create David Loeb’s “international style”.

Moreover, doesn’t this piece invite a comparison between Baroque values and rough shewn assymetries of wabi-sabi?

The opening made me think of Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht. It’s the several keys suggested in quick succession, but it’s not polytonal, the different “keys” are like shifts into parallel universes.

Guitarists and and early music players know about David Loeb. If they’re like me, they might not know what to do with him. He’s like a test of one’s committment to 20th C. revolutions. The more ideologically committed one is to a 12-tone revolution or a minimalist, noise or x-EDO revolution, the less likely one will be able to embrace what Loeb does.

He’s the only composer who breaks all the rules about what’s not allowed after 1918, but it’s more like a remaking of music pre-1518, with Asian influences. He’s been a Pre-Raphaelite long before the Arts & Crafts revival that we saw in the 90s.

What he absorbs from his own era is a tolerance for dissonance, and we can’t deny some similarities with Bartok, with Asian idioms replacing Bartok’s Eastern European folk idioms .

The shō () is a Japanese free reed musical instrument that was introduced from China during the Nara period (AD 710 to 794). It is descended from the Chinese sheng, of the Tang Dynasty era, although the shōtends to be smaller in size than its contemporary sheng relatives.