Serious Business

Serious Business


Artist: Spektral Quartet

Composer: Sky Macklay, David Reminick, Joseph Haydn, Chris Fisher-Lochhead

Format: 1 CD + 1 Pure Audio Blu-ray


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Serious Business is not a funny album. More accurately, playing this album will not induce the brand of gut-busting, teary-eyed revelry that an episode of Chappelle’s Show or a YouTube clip of Anna Karkowska’s vibrato will. It is funny like the idea of a Rothko turning the stomachs of well-heeled gluttons at the Four Seasons is funny, or how anything Andy Kaufman ever suited up for is funny. It might be a little uncomfortable, rings clear in its truth, and sometimes reveals itself gradually.

Serious Business comprises four different perspectives on humor through the lens of classical music – a flavor of music that could use a little more funny, in general. You, dear listener, won’t be popping in this CD in the way you would a Louis C.K. special. This is an album about what makes something funny, and more importantly, a collection of music we think is brilliant, and clever, and unequivocally worth entering the cave for.

Since its inception, the Spektral Quartet has sought out the discourse between the great works of the traditional canon and those written this decade, this year, or this week. Creating connections across centuries, the group further invites its listeners in with charismatic deliveries, interactive concert formats, an up-close atmosphere, and bold, inquisitive programming.

The ensemble is regarded for its forward-thinking endeavors including the Mobile Miniatures project, which rallied more than forty composers from across the US including David Lang, Augusta Read Thomas, Nico Muhly and Shulamit Ran to write ringtone-length pieces for download to mobile devices. In addition to finding vehicles for bringing classical music into everyday life, the Spektral Quartet prioritizes immersion and inclusivity and delivers the majority of its Chicago concerts in vibrant, unconventional venues. 

The Spektral Quartet proudly serves as ensemble-in-residence at the University of Chicago's Department of Music.

Track List

Sky Macklay
1. Many Many Cadences 8:36

David Reminick
The Ancestral Mousetrap
2. Killing the Ape 4:32
3. The Old Woman’s Breakfast 1:34              
4. Oh My God I’ll Never Get Home 1:51
5. Bringing a Dead Man Back Into Life 4:17
6. The Ancestral Mousetrap 4:08

Franz Joseph Haydn
String Quartet Op. 33 No. 2 in E-Flat “The Joke”
7. Allegro moderato 5:05
8. Scherzo: Allegro 3:15
9. Largo e sostenuto 4:47
10. Presto 3:12

Chris Fisher-Lochhead
11. Lenny Bruce 3:34
12. Sarah Silverman 0:50
13. Dave Chappelle 1:03
14. George Carlin 2:17
15. Robin Williams 1 0:41
16. Dick Gregory 1:35
17. Professor Irwin Corey 1:12
18. Rodney Dangerfield 1/2 0:16
19. Sam Kinison 1:13
20. Rodney Dangerfield 3 0:10
21. Redd Foxx 0:53
22. Rodney Dangerfield 4/5 0:14
23. Kumail Nanjiani 0:44
24. Rodney Dangerfield 6/7 0:22
25. Mort Sahl 1:14
26. Rodney Dangerfield 8 0:09
27. Susie Essman 0:43
28. Rodney Dangerfield 9 0:16
29. Richard Pryor 2:19
30. Robin Williams 2 1:02
31. Ms. Pat 1:29
32. Tig Notaro 2:11

Total time: 65:26
Release date: January 29, 2016
UPC: 053479219824

Quotes & Reviews

…these are superb performances, vivid and strongly felt, convincingly argued and full of rich, characterful detail.

David Kettle, The Strad

This wonderfully inventive work is cleverly put together and stands well as a whole.  And just when you think the disc is over there is a very brief glimpse of the conclusion of Haydn’s quartet—which makes you wonder if it’s actually finished yet.

This new release will not be for everyone. You need a certain kind of humour, sometimes black humour. But why shouldn’t classical music raise a smile even a resounding laugh?  The Spektral Quartet wear their musicianship lightly, bringing just the right touch to these works.

Bruce Reader, The Classical Reviewer

…preposterous, charming and brilliantly performed.

Helen Wallace, BBC Music Magazine

The Spektral Quartet, young radicals of Chicago, have a delirious new record called Serious Business, on the theme of comedy in music. The central piece, Chris Fisher-Lochhead’s Hack, is a knockout: instrumental reproductions/revampings of comedy routines by the likes of George Carlin, Robin Williams, Rodney Dangerfield, Richard Pryor, Sarah Silverman, and Dave Chappelle.

Alex Ross, The Rest Is Noise

Everything about the Sono Luminus package (the CD comes with an audio DVD) is an intentional nudge in the listener's ribs—not so much laugh-out-loud funny as wickedly-droll funny.

The big piece on the disc, Chicago composer Chris Fischer-Lochhead's "Hack" (2015) is a suite in 22 sections—some as tiny as 9 or 10 seconds—made up of transcriptions of lines once uttered by 16 famed comedians ranging from Lenny Bruce to Robin Williams. Fischer-Lochhead's rude scrunches, swoops and sputters are cheerfully anarchic stuff; so is Sky Macklay's "Many Many Cadences" (2014), a twitchy mass of tonal cadences jammed atop one another. The performances and recording could hardly be better, and the cover art is a hoot.

John von Rein, Chicago Tribune

Violist Doyle Armbrust’s liner notes begin, ‘This is not funny.’ True, there’s nothing to make one laugh, but it is humorous. Half of this album is built around music that upends expected notions in light and dark ways—call it slapstick—and the other half has an explicit imprint of comedy.

George Grella, The Big City

…preposterous, charming and brilliantly performed.
— Helen Wallace, BBC Music Magazine
The Spektral ensemble has a special knack for finding a satisfying balance of style, soul and seriousness.
— Chicago Classical Review
…these are superb performances, vivid and strongly felt, convincingly argued and full of rich, characterful detail.
— David Kettle, The Strad

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