Nicole Lizee, This Will Not Be Televised

John Schaefer

By John Schaefer

on 06.07.12 in Reviews

Canadian composer Nicole Lizee writes music with a seriousness of purpose that doesn’t get in the way of her wry sense of humor and palpable sense of fun. She is drawn to the sounds of electronics, pop music and, to be even more specific, the sounds of electronically manipulated recordings of pop music. The title track of this collection, “This Will Not Be Televised,” is a work for turntablist and chamber orchestra. Familiar (in some cases, maddeningly familiar) fragments of old recordings are “scratched” and pitch-shifted, leading the acoustic ensemble on a merry chase through a fractured but brightly colored soundscape. (The title refers not to the late Gil Scott-Heron’s masterpiece, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” but to the simple fact that the CBC was on strike at the time of composition.) “RPM” is a precursor to the title piece — an early exploration of the turntable as an additional orchestral instrument. It too uses familiar elements that fuse into a much more abstract musical language, ending in a mind-bending, freeform DJ battle.

Taking a distinctive approach to rhythm that makes each work her own

The most easily accessible work here is “Girl, You’re Living a Life of Crime,” a lyrical but rhythmically tricky piece for what is essentially a jazz/rock band. This and its companion quintet pieces, the spare and halting “Carpal Tunnels” and the off-kilter sci-fi score “Jupiter Moon Menace,” show the influence of New York’s Bang On A Can crew, but Lizee has a distinctive approach to rhythm (inspired by skipping records, jazz rhythm patterns, etc.) that helps make each of these works uniquely her own.