Henry Brant Collection Vol. 8

Henry Brant Collection Vol. 8

The zany album
Henry Brant
J.S. Bach
Arioso Winds
Barbara Hannigan
Gerrit Homerson
Henry Brant
Jacques Meertens
Modern Brass Ensemble
Netherlands Wind Ensemble
New Performance Group-Seattle
Reinbert de Leeuw
Telluride Glacial Spatial Ensemble
Vera Beths
Werner Herbers
Yvar Mikhashoff
Pauline Oliveros
Charles Amirkhanian
Wadada Leo Smith
Gloria Cheng
Larry Polansky
James Tenney
Catalog Number: 
new classical
wind band

Telluride, CO

Release Date: 
Feb 26, 2008
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
One Sheet: 

Too often, funny music isn't. It tries too hard or the particular brand of humor just isn't your cup of tea. To make matters worse, we feel uncomfortable about laughing even at an especially ludicrous concert of avant-garde music. Finally, here is a selection of music that assaults every listener's capacity for stoicism and gives you permission to enjoy yourself. 

The nine works on Volume 8 of innova's Henry Brant Collection range from unfeasibly jolly, to zanily bizarre, and just plain loopy. There's something here representing every type of amusement: for those who love Buster Keaton as well as those who prefer The Office, or PDQ Bach. 

Long before there was Switched On Bach, irreverent Henry was fooling around with Wachet Auf and making it swing a la Benny Goodman. Then there were the pianists (Reinbert de Leeuw in this case; no dime store slouch) found in Woolworth's in the 1920s (which Henry still remembers), ready to play fancy versions of requested songs� 

Revenge Before Breakfast is more than just a good title; its "synthetic nostalgias" are going to make you weep with bemused incredulity. Just when you think that would be hard to beat, along comes Inside Track: way over the top. On the one hand it's a spatial piano concerto played by the superlative Yvar Mikhashoff, on the other, a whacked out carnivorous sparrow that must have swallowed a soprano on a planet filled with helium� 

Another standout is Altitude 8750; coincidentally the exact height above sea level of the 1990 Telluride Composer to Composer Conference. The ensemble for this instant piece is an all-star cast including: Pauline Oliveros, Charles Amirkhanian, Wadada Leo Smith, Gloria Cheng, Larry Polansky, James Tenney and a host of others with an astonishing capacity for hell-raising. 

From smirks to guffaws, Charlie Chaplin to Benny Hill to Ricky Gervaise, this music will get some kind of rise out of you. If your funny bone is not touched in some new way, innova promises your money back, miseryguts. 


Early in his life as a Santa Barbaran, Brant’s music showed up locally, including a presentation of the memorable “Rainforest” that took place at (and around) the Lobero. He has since presented music elsewhere, globally, including his 2001, Pulitzer-winning Ice Field with the San Francisco Symphony. Another obstacle for Brant’s work is that stereo recordings don’t do justice to his multi-vantage-point music. Thus he’s had little interest in pursuing documentation of his music. Lately, though, Brant’s discography has grown dramatically, thanks to a recording series on Innova (the St. Paul-based label arm of the American Composers Forum).

Volume 8 showcases shorter pieces, some dating from the ’30s, with a focus on Brant’s witty — and sometimes goofy — side, including Whoopee in D, “Revenge Before Breakfast,” and some jazz-based pieces.

- Josef Woodard, LA Times

It feels a little odd for me to write a CD review on Brant’s music the day that I learned of his passing. I’ve been spinning the disc for the past few days and enjoying it quite a bit. I was delighted to hear rash and exuberant music matched up with the meditative and spatial works. The opening Whoopee in D and Music for a Five and Dime Store are energetic and spleen-venting. The following Revenge Before Breakfast is rather subdued and mellow in comparison with a mournful accordion serving as a sonic centerpiece.

Brant’s compositional craft and mercurial voice ooze all over this whole disc. Brant’s voice was too big to be contained in a singular focused output. His compositions are all over the map, brimming with ideas and sprawling out over the stage and into the world.

- Jay Batzner, Sequenza 21

This release is volume 8 of what looks to be a definitive collection of Henry Brant’s recorded works from this label. With tapings from a variety of sources this is no Hi-Fi demonstration disc, but with the sheer vibrancy of most of the manic music on offer here this in fact adds to the charm of this compilation. Interestingly, the Innova website states for this CD that “If your funny bone is not touched in some new way, Innova promises your money back, miseryguts.” I will be interested to see if anyone tries, but once you have this CD I doubt very much if you will want to send it back.

- Dominy Clements, Music Web International