Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bacharach studied with French polytonal

Bacharach studied with French polytonal composer Darius Milhaud (1892-1974), who "attached extreme importance to melodic line, superimposing different keys to produce a polytonal texture characteristic of his style" (Larousse Encyclopedia of Music). And he claims to have been deeply influenced by Maurice Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe Suite, a strikingly atmospheric Impressionist piece featuring a huge orchestra, a wordless chorus for extra flavor, and a panoply of percussion, including a wind machine. (Two fabulous recordings of the full ballet, from which the Suite was adapted: a stunning digital disc by Charles Dutoit and Choir and Symphonie Orchestra of Montreal [RealAudio sample available via]; and an equally impressive late '70s performance by Pierre Boulez with the New York Philharmonic and the Camerata Singers.)
In the liner notes to Rhino Records' The Look of Love: The Burt Bacharach Collection, Bacharach recalls Milhaud encouraging him to "let the melody shine through. 'It's nothing to be ashamed of,' he said." Bacharach never forgot. His melodic structures may be unconventional or oddly shaped, but they are unashamedly glorious. Bacharach can drop glittering two- or three-note tune fragments upon one another until he's built a gorgeous melody that surprises you because you didn't hear it coming. These little clusters of notes tease you, keep you guessing, and the overall shape of the melody doesn't become apparent until the last piece is dropped into place:
The lookOf loveIs inYour eyesA lookYour smileCan't disguise ("The Look of Love")
But now I fill my life upWith all ICan do toDeaden this sensation("This House is Empty Now," with Elvis Costello)
or even:
Why do birdsSuddenly appearEv'ry timeYou are near?Just like meThey long to beClose to you("Close to You")

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