365 Days, 365 Files: Bang on a Can All-Stars – David Lang: Cheating, Lying, Stealing

"A couple of years ago, I started thinking about how so often when classical composers write a piece of music, they are trying to tell you something that they are proud of and like about themselves," composer David Lang writes in the program notes for his work, Cheating, Lying, Stealing. "Here’s this big gushing melody, see how emotional I am. Or, here’s this abstract hard-to-figure-out piece, see how complicated I am, see my really big brain ….

"So I thought, What would it be like if composers based pieces on what they thought was wrong with them? Like, here’s a piece that shows you how miserable I am. Or, here’s a piece that shows you what a liar I am, what a cheater I am. I wanted to make a piece that was about something disreputable."

Dude, if you wanted to do that, you should have gone into rock ‘n’ roll.

Cheating, Lying, Stealing is essentially a minimalist piece thinking it has some tawdry relationship with James Brown. The rhythm is off-kilter, the melody ominous. Lang describes the piece as "not trustworthy". It really isn’t.

It’s also the rare piece of classical music to possess a sense of humor this side of PDQ Bach.

Lang really struck a nice balance with this piece. Cheating, Lying, Stealing has a bit of rock ‘n’ roll attitude, but it loses none of its classical finesse.

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