Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Conceived as a reimagining of director D.W. Griffith's infamously racist 1915 silent film The Birth of a Nation, Rebirth of a Nation, recorded with the Kronos Quartet, is a controversial and culturally significant project examining how "... exploitation and political corruption still haunt the world to this day, but in radically different forms." Originally commissioned in 2004 by the Lincoln Center Festival, Spoleto Festival USA, Weiner Festwochen and the Festival d'Automne a Paris, the project was Paul D. Miller's first large-scale multimedia performance piece, and has been performed around the world, from the Sydney Festival to the Herod Atticus Amphitheater, more than fifty times. Paul D. Miller is probably most well-known as DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid. He has recorded a huge volume of music and collaborated with a wide variety of musicians and composers, Iannis Xenakis, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Kronos Quartet, Pierre Boulez, Steve Reich, Yoko Ono and Thurston Moore among them. He also composed and recorded the score for the Cannes and Sundance Award-winning film Slam, starring acclaimed poet Saul Williams, and produced material on Yoko Ono's recent album Yes, I'm a Witch.
Liner Note Author: Paul D. Miller.
Recording information: Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, CA (02/02/2007).
Editor: Howard Kenty.
Arranger: Howard Kenty.
Rebirth of a Nation, by DJ Spooky (Paul D. Miller), has been called a remix of D.W. Griffith's notorious and explicitly (if not avowedly) racist 1915 film The Birth of a Nation, applying the techniques of the electronic DJ to film instead of music. But it was also a musical score, and one of an unprecedented kind. You get both viewpoints on the work here: the album release includes two discs, one containing a complete version of DJ Spooky's remixed film, with the soundtrack recut and resynchronized to the film. Those who have seen Rebirth of a Nation in one of its many live realizations may wish to have this release for the sake of completeness. But really the music itself is another good reason. The cover rubric "Performed by Kronos Quartet" doesn't quite represent what you hear; instead, the string quartet weaves in and out of DJ Spooky's electronic soundscapes, which both reflect and comment on the film's violent story, as sure an indication as there is of the evil that lurks in the hearts of humans. The music is broken into 19 cuts, each with its own title ("Ride of the Klansmen"), more or less in the manner of a traditional soundtrack. But the relationship between the electronics and the acoustic instruments is something else again. This is not the first fusion between classical music and hip-hop, which composers from each tradition have juxtaposed since hip-hop was no more than a decade old. But even in 2015, when the project was eight years old (the Kronos Quartet parts here were recorded in 2007), it remained the most thorough, profound, and problematic attempt to bring the two traditions into conversation. Recommended and worth hearing as abstract music. ~ James Manheim
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