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Discover variety and joy in chamber music


Since May is National Chamber Music Month I decided to explore what makes a piece chamber music. I thought chamber music was old, classical and dark. However, after a little research within our electronic resources, and a number of listening sessions with CDs from our library's own chamber music section, I discovered this genre is varied and enjoyable.

What is Chamber Music?

Originally, chamber music was composed for smaller settings, not intended for the church or festivities. Because of this, it naturally led to compositions written for a small group of instruments. It was known as chamber music because of where it was performed: in the chamber room of a house or palace - a space intended for special occasions or official business. 

Today, chamber music is known as a type of classical music performed by a small group of musicians, usually without a conductor. Unlike in an orchestra, with multiple parts and players for the various instruments, chamber music will have only one or two musicians playing each part. 

You’ll find our small but mighty chamber music CD collection in our Movies and Music Lounge - and of course, Hoopla has even more to browse! In the spirit of research, here are three albums I found with exceptional music and really great CD booklets included.

Spin by Los Angeles Guitar Quartet Hoopla / CD

CD cover musicians with guitarsGuitarists John Dearman, Bill Kanengiser, Scott Tennant and Andrew York, collectively known as LAGQ - the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, released Spin in 2006. This diverse, fun album is titled after a piece composed by LAGQ member York, who was inspired by a poem - "Let love spin you around and around…”  - and all the different meanings of the word spin.

Drawing on the many ways spin can be used, each member of LAGQ added their own spin and their own inspirations, recording an album with slow and retrospective ballads and songs that are way too easy to dance to. 

Evergreen by Caroline Shaw and Attacca Quartet Hoopla / CD

cd case green plantsEvergreen is a beautiful album, inside and out. One huge perk of checking out CDs at the library is the cover art and booklets! On this CD the artwork is gorgeous and the music is exciting and unique. The booklet includes lyrics and short essays about the compositions and the musicians. The music is both calming and energetic, cinematic and intimate. Caroline Shaw's vocals are poetic, haunting and emotional. The Attacca Quartet’s viola, cello and two violins create big sounds, both new and familiar, unique and absorbing.

This album is one of my favorites so far this year, and I am so glad to have found Caroline Shaw. 

"Caroline Shaw is a musician who moves among roles, genres, and mediums, trying to imagine a world of sound that has never been heard before but has always existed. She is the recipient of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Music, several Grammy awards, an honorary doctorate from Yale, and a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. She has worked with a range of artists including Rosalía, Renée Fleming, and Yo Yo Ma, and she has contributed music to films and TV series including Fleishman is in Trouble, Bombshell, Yellowjackets, Maid, Dark, and Beyonce’s Homecoming. Her favorite color is yellow, and her favorite smell is rosemary." from Bio

Want more experimental, modern vibes in your chamber music? Check out the exceptional – If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich from Julius Eastman Vol 3.

Come, Gentle Night by Ensemble Galilei Hoopla / CD

CD cover painted blue night skyFor a more classic example of chamber music, listen to Come, Gentle Night: Music of Shakepeare’s World from Ensemble Galilei. This CD comes with an amazing booklet. Reading about the background of the group and the songs, and learning about the process while listening to the album enhances the experience of finding great music! Six musicians playing fiddles, Scottish small pipes, oboe, recorder, pennywhistle, Celtic harp, viola da gamba and percussion, created more than an hour of lively and relaxing music from Shakespeare’s world.

For more medieval and renaissance tunes, I recommend checking out another CD from Ensemble Galilei - From the Isles to the Courts. This CD comes with informative booklets that give you an in-depth look at Super Audio Compact Discs (SACD) The Next Generation Music Carrier.

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