Venus Notorious is a collection of high-energy rock-inspired music by composer Zack Browning whose music has been called “speed-demon music.” Browning’s use of planetary magic squares to create exotic musical structures makes for an astonishing web of wild rapid-fire changes. The magic squares that were associated with the planets by Heirich Cornelius Agrippa in 1531 are filled in by Browning with rhythmically-charged blasts of sound that are in a state of constant conflict.
The music starts with pop-inspired riffs and transforms those ideas into super-charged gestures that are put into the musical maze. The performers are asked to be both visceral and virtuosic as they grind their way through Browning’s musical paths. Browning worked closely with all of the players on the disc which gives the performances a feeling of direct and dynamic communication to the listener. It is the pure energy of the music that flows through the performances that highlights Venus Notorious.
The title track Venus Notorious exemplifies the entire disc. It is a “notorious” update of Bartok’s “Sonata for Two Pianos and Two Percussion”, notorious because VN uses the same instrumentation as Bartok except the timpani is replaced by a drum set. The drum set triggers a new and “notorious” world of pop-inspired art music transformed by the Magic Square of Venus.
The music of Zack Browning is described as “way-cool in attitude” and “speed-demon music” (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution) and “propulsive, giddy, rocking…, a rush of cyclic riffs and fractured meters” (The New York Times). The Irish Times has proclaimed he is “bringing together the procedures of high musical art with the taste of popular culture”. The CD “Banjaxed” on Capstone Records contains eight of his original compositions for voice, instruments and computer-generated sounds and has been called “dramatic, exciting, rhythmic, high-energy music”.
Browning’s composition awards have included an Illinois Arts Council Composer Fellowship and a Chamber Music America Commission. Performances include the Bonk Festival of New Music (Tampa), the International Society for Contemporary Music Festival (Miami), International Computer Music Conference (New Orleans), Spark Festival (Minneapolis), Gaudeamus Music Week (Amsterdam), Composers Choice Festival (Dublin), Sonorities Festival (Belfast) , Skinneskatteberg Festival (Sweden) Asian Contemporary Music Festival (Seoul), National Chiang Kai Shek Cultural Center (Taipei) and Jilin University and Northeast Normal University (Changchun, China). Browning is an associate professor of music composition and theory at the University of Illinois.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
“Zack Browning’s 2008 String Quartet…..a propulsive, giddy, rocking piece, a rush of cyclic riffs and fractured meters.”
ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION
“way-cool in attitude…. speed-demon music”
“Bringing together the procedures of high musical art with the taste of popular culture”.
AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE
“….edgy, but cool work. The musicians breathe fire like a dragon, singeing but never burning. … the aural equivalent of the pinball machine. Imagine sassy, brilliant bumpers with each slam of the ball sending a glitter of lights and mechanical twitters through your chest. Electro-acoustic aficionados should definitely check this out.”
La musica di Zack Browning è a tutti gli effetti post-minimalista. La ripetitività gioca un ruolo centrale in tutte le sue composizioni, in cui cellule melodico-ritmiche, cariche di swing e dalla presa immediata, si sviluppano gradualmente e meccanicamente a partire da una serie iniziale. E tuttavia, Browning impedisce che il flusso graduale e meccanico prenda il controllo, trascinandoci nel flusso ipnotico tipico del minimalismo storico. Prima che ciò accada, infatti, il compositore interviene sezionando, sovrapponendo e ricucendo il materiale musicale utilizzato, attraverso un fitto gioco di incastri, specchi e rifrazioni. L’energia contagiosa, di chiara ispirazione pop e rock, che sgorga da tutte le sue composizioni, in cui un ruolo di primo piano è giocato dalle percussioni, non corre il rischio di disperdersi, in quanto viene abilmente incanalata dal compositore in sentieri impervi, ramificati, ma che in ultimo ci conducono alla luce. - Filippo Focosi
This technique [magic squares] tends to produce compositions that are multi-sectional, full of variety, and pique the intellect and the ear. Or to put it another way, rather like a meal with many different courses, the pieces move from one textual or rhythmic “flavor” to another. This makes them highly accessible, and, if you are a person who thinks you do not like “modern music,” this CD might well change your mind. - John Wagstaff