A celebration of chaos
Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Myer and Chris Thile, each highly accomplished musicians in their own right, unite in their eagerly anticipated follow up album to Grammy Award winning The Goat Rodeo Sessions.
“Goat Rodeo” is an expression meaning a chaotic situation, one in which everything has to go right by skill or luck, or everything will be thrown off course. It’s an appropriate title for the complexity of Not Our First Goat Rodeo. “Every Note A Pearl” shows this with dissonant notes in which the strings slide into new keys. In less skilled hands, this would be a mistake, but here it’s a testament to the group’s skill. It takes a good musician to sing in the wrong key on purpose, but it takes a great one to make the “wrong” key right.
Not Our First Goat Rodeo is a delicate ecosystem of sound. Like most ecosystems, any little change could bring the whole thing down, but here it’s perfectly balanced. At the climax of “Scarcely Cricket” and “Not for Lack of Trying,” each instrument takes on a life of its own. Rather than one sticking out and the rest supporting, they often each take their own stage, in a cacophony of interlocking chaos. A person can listen to the same track multiple times and get totally different impressions as the ear picks up new parts each time. It’s the sonic equivalent of a forest path that demands multiple explorations to be fully known.
“Waltz Whitman” stands out as an exception in which the violin takes center stage for the “chorus” in sweeping joyful notes that people can already hear at a wedding. “The Trappings” stands out as well, because it’s one of two tracks on the album that feature vocalists. The voices have a flutelike, pure quality to them, and they dip in and out of the pulsing strings around them with tight harmonies. It’s not a matter of vocals and backup instrumentals; the vocals are instruments here.
Unfortunately, people may have to wait a while for the Goat Rodeo tour. According to the Chicago Tribune, a Goat Rodeo performance previously scheduled for August 13 has been cancelled in accordance with COVID-19 concerns, and as of writing, the group has not announced tour dates. Hopefully, people will be able to see them perform in the fall.
A goat rodeo refers to a chaotic, unmanageable situation. Not Our First Got Rodeo embraces the chaos and does not restrain any of the four string virtuosos, letting them all take the center stage at once and showing the beauty in the unmanaged.