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I've got a sneaking suspicion that Wynonna's new attention to image and aesthetics is behind the nosedive in musical quality. Judging by the photos that blanket the album, the ugly Juddling has been airbrushed into a swan. She's jazzercized her plump frame into oblivion, and Rebacized her noggin with a mane of bright orange hair. She's a soft-filtered babe, all right, and imminently marketable to a mainstream audience that doesn't particularly cotton to musical innovation.

Come to think of it, there may be a second revelation floating around here: The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

By Steven Almond

Steve Reich
The Cave
(Nonesuch)

Part musical theater piece, part documentary, The Cave is an extremely ambitious work. Composer Steve Reich and video artist Beryl Korot asked dozens of Israeli Jews, Palestinian Moslems, and Americans of various belief systems (as well as those with none) about the biblical figure of Abraham A Was he a Jew or a Moslem? A and about his sons Isaac and Ishmael, who are regarded as the progenitors of the Jews and Moslems, respectively. The responses, which were as personal and different as fingerprints, were recorded on video. Reich then translated the intrinsic pitches and rhythms of the respondents' spoken answers into musical notation (a technique he also used in 1988's Different Trains), and Korot manipulated and edited the video portion of the tapes.

The combined result -- which includes keyboards, percussion, winds, singers, a string quartet, and the faces and voices of the interviewees -- was a potential hodgepodge. However, Reich and Korot exerted remarkable control over their material, and they shaped it into a totality that I found curiously moving as it stimulated reflection on my own spiritual and familial roots, which belong neither to Judaism nor Islam. Although The Cave is not an overtly political work, it opens a door to peace in the Middle East by pointing out that Jews and Arabs might have a common ancestor in Abraham. If half-brothers Isaac and Ishmael reconciled by coming together to bury their father in a cave in Hebron -- the biblical event that gives this work its title -- can't other peoples reconcile as well?

Speakers include professors, artists, journalists, a hotel manager, an actress, Carl Sagan, an advocate for gay and lesbian youth, and Daniel Berrigan -- "Jesuit priest, author, convicted felon -- alleluia!" The vocalists echo their words and sing relevant portions of scripture, and the instrumentalists provide supporting drones and riff on the speech rhythms.

One caveat: Clearly, this is a work that deserves to be seen and heard. An opportunity for CD-ROM has been missed here, but it's a tribute to the strength of Reich's and Korot's concept that, even minus the visuals, The Cave is so compelling.

By Raymond Tuttle

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