Music Reviews

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Artist: Peter Van Zandt Lane (@)
Title: Hackpolitik
Format: CD
Label: Innova (@)
Rated: *****
Peter Van Zandt Lane is an American composer of acoustic and electroacoustic music. He has composed music for numerous classical and chamber music ensembles as well the Cleveland Orchestra, among others. 'Hackpolitik' is a ballet composed for and premiered by Boston-based Juventas New Music Ensemble and Brooklyn-based contemporary dance company The People Movers. Based on a series of cyber-attacks between 2010 and 2012 linked to the hacker groups Anonymous and LulzSec, the ballet depicts the rise and fall of Topiary (hacktivist) and Sabu (hacktivist) through a combination of 'electroacoustic music, modern dance, and video projection" and "examines how the Internet blurs the lines between activism and anarchy.'

Of course, we have only the music to go on here, no ballet, so one has to use their imagination. To an extent the music of 'Hackpolitik' falls into the avant garde, eschewing romanticism for action and functionality. Not to say the work is devoid of emotion, for it surely is not, but the emotion rises out of intent of purpose, anger, determination, humiliation, betrayal and consequences rather than matters of the heart. In many passages the music is quite lively, and often angular and oblique punctuated by percussion, and in others less so being quiet and contemplative. Sometimes woodwinds and xylophones weave complex arpeggios like a spider spinning a web. Other segments feature only a couple of instruments seeming to do there own thing, but there is still an intertwining relationship.

Often it sounds more like incidental film score music, meant to heighten the dramatic tension and interplay between characters and situations. One exception is track 5 - Scene III- Laurelai emerges" with reflective piano and a melancholy violin. Another is track 7 - "Scene V: The Jester" where a good segment of this passage seems to tell a story in its own right. While most of the instruments used in the compositions are orchestral, the use of electronics, although often incidental, plays a definitive role in the proceedings. In track 11 - "The shaming of HBGary Federal" sounds like a cacophonous thrash-metal freakout and I'm not sure what they're using on that but distorted electric guitar has to be in there somewhere.

'Hackpolitik' is modern classical music at its most challenging, not because it's difficult listening (for me it wasn't), but because it forces you to think outside the box, and that can be difficult for many. While undoubtedly more effective in the context of the ballet, Peter Van Zandt Lane's latest work still makes for engaging listening for the dauntless who appreciate provocative, experimental music.



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