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CD Review

Jocelyn Pook


Musicians include Jocelyn Pook, Melanie Pappenheim, Kelsey Michael, Jonathan Peter Kenny, Ursula Martinez, Maninckam Yogeswaran, Harvey Brough, Bozena Cerhan, and the Electra Strings
Virgin 48150 DDD 54:08
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This is one of those discs that more than just crosses over. Jocelyn Pook is no operatic diva crooning Gershwin and no pop star with classical pretensions. Instead, she is a Guildhall-trained composer and performer (voice, keyboards, strings) who has written music that doesn't fit easily into a single genre, but that has captured the attention of all sorts of folks nonetheless. One of these folks was director Stanley Kubrick, who included Pook's music in "Eyes Wide Shut," his final film. Kubrick heard her music by chance, liked what he heard, and asked her to write new pieces (and rework older ones) for the film. This happy accident has brought Pook's music to more people than would have heard it otherwise – I know I would have been unlikely to encounter this CD had it not been for her sudden catapult to fame. Apparently Flood used to be "Deluge," but the success of "Eyes Wide Shut" pushed Virgin Records to reissue it under a new title with some of the original material re-recorded or remixed, as it was heard in the film. It might be quite interesting to hunt down "Deluge" and check out the differences between the two CDs.

Pook says she was inspired by the end of the millennium as she composed the original material – not just this millennium, but the one 1000 years ago as well. There was "Y1K" phobia of a sort back then, and Pook has used old and present fears as the basis for some apocalyptic sound-crafting. She combines disparate elements together to striking effect. Most strikingly, a track called "Oppenheimer" combines the recorded chant of a Yemenite Jew with a "real time" performance by Pook and Pappenheim of a Requiem Mass; J.R. Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, reminisces (almost fondly?) about his creation at the beginning of the track. It's creepy, but beautiful stuff. Even creepier is "Masked Ball," which used to be "Backwards Priests"; it was renamed because this music was used in "Eyes Wide Shut"'s orgy scene. The simple device of chanting male voices run backwards puts me in mind of a Black Mass. Even the beloved English contralto Kathleen Ferrier appears on Flood; phrases from her recording of the English song "Blow the Wind Southerly" are alternated with a "Pie Jesu" sung by Pappenheim. I'm not sure what it represents, but it sounds good. "Goya's Nightmare" is a disturbing stew of vocals, strings, and exotic instrumentation. If you've seen Goya's late paintings, you know how scary they can be, and Pook's music lives up to the title.

Flood is full of good things, but as I suggested above, it is not a through-composed disc. I am waiting to see what Pook will do next, away from Virgin's understandable desire to capitalize on her sudden fame.

Copyright © 2000, Raymond Tuttle