|Records Opinion - February 2011|
|Wednesday, 23 February 2011 12:04|
More info about Steve Reich
‘Drumming’ is a composition for percussions created by minimalist composer Steve Reich, consisting of four parts in the forms of ‘gradual movement’ with a certain ‘phasing’ technique, the music of each part changes gradually. Another technique utilized is ‘substitution of beats for rests’ where rhythm is arranged note per note, eventually forming a complete rhythm.
The first composition is for four pairs of bongos played with a stick. The second part is for 3 marimbas, 2 or 3 female vocals. The third part for 3 glockenspiels, a whistler, and piccolo. The fourth part for a complete ensemble. The musicians playing this work consists of 9 percussion players and 3 or 4 additional musicians, totaling 12 or 13 musicians.
This composition can be considered a very tight piece of minimalist music, where each musical element is very controlled and used only sparingly. In the drumming from part one to part four only one rhythm pattern is used in one 12/8 pattern, arranged note by note and stage by stage, eventually forming a complete rhythm pattern.
Timbre is very controlled, part one only has bongos, and part two marimbas (with additional vocals), part three glockenspiel (with additional whistler and piccolo), and only on the fourth part do we have all instruments; changes incorporated step by step (gradual movement).
Elements of dynamics are used in fade in – fade out (diminuendo and crescendo) as transitions. Elements of ‘pitch’ (melodic areas) are almost constant at all parts, no melody at all in any particularly conventional understanding. So what we hear (enjoy) in this work is a “sound panorama” (soundscape) that slowly changes, as if we’re witnessing a slowly passing cloud up in the blue sky.
Listening to all four tracks you can’t help feeling like you’re drawn into a beautiful trance. Personally, my favourite is track number 4. It’s amazing how you can feel the harmony and precision came out of very simple rhythms.
I love the feeling of minimalism and tribal presented in all four tracks. You can tell the musicians are having a good time because when you listen to the tracks they make you feel free and happy. Apparently Steve Reich started this particular composition of work after visiting Africa and observed the music there which explains the strong tribal influence.
These tracks would make a great soundtrack if ever you decide to migrate to an enchanting forest and create a communion where all you do is gather food and celebrate in the evening wearing amazing tribal print garments and beautiful headdresses. If only…
The musical works of Steve Reich which I first heard just two or three years ago, has now become such a ‘guarantee’ regarding to, if I may say, an ‘adequate’ minimalist music. And in this ‘Drumming’ album—which consists of four parts, he has accurately delivered what ‘drumming’ could possibly mean on the ground of ‘minimalism’. With bongos and marimbas, also woodwind instruments and vocals as rhythmic foundations as well as melodies, Steve Reich composed not only the richness elements of timbres, pitches, and color in each instrument, but also the repetitive and phasing method of rhythm pattern at the same time.
The sensation is mind-blowing! He gradually builds-up a heavy stroke of ‘technicolor’ sound and precisely combines layers of rhythm; it makes a ‘moving’ effect to my mind, spirit and body. And at this very point, I think it will no longer matter, whether this compositional work of Steve Reich will be played by humans or even machines, or if it will be called ‘minimal’, ‘post-modern’, ‘contemporary’, or even ‘African’ or ‘Asian’; when music as beautiful as it is has fruitfully transcended my soul too.
More info about Ojos De Brujo
Ojos de Brujo as a group has successfully and quite competently blended various elements from several music of the world (traditional and modern/contemporary); among others from Indian music, Middle-Eastern, hip-hop, techno, Latin America, with their main pillar and musical spirit in flamenco.
The sound (musical) elements of: rhythm, melody, instrumentation are combined very precisely, efficiently, flexibly, and very intelligently in each composition. And also it is supported by practically perfect playing technique from each musician and the incredible performance energy from the whole ensemble.
The first composition from their album (Techary), entitled “Color” shows this; where the composition is arranged in a solid form within a quick tempo with short motifs arranged in a (sort of) interlocking technique from various sounds (instruments and vocals), so that in a linear fashion it forms a unique ‘color-melody’ and rhythm; quite fitting with its title “Color”.
The texture of this first composition feels more polyphonic rather than homophonic with the intertwining of several ‘color-melodies’ and rhythms catching up with each other, sound volume/firmness rising and falling in turns and phrasing using breaks.
After listening to this first composition, in my view, we can understand why Ojos de Brujo could successfully combine elements of various world musics, because all elements are taken advantage of as ‘sound elements’ for a compositional material arranged within their targeted expression.
Other compositions in this album contains: taking advantage of, development, variation, and unlimited possibilities from the above techniques, using various atmospheres, sayings, expressions to be revealed. We are invited to explore the world with flamenco as our main vehicle.
Love this album! Very funky and vibrant. Makes me think of sandy beaches straightaway, preferably dancing with a glass of cocktail in my hand. However this Latin and heavily flamenco based album is not just about having a good time. For example the track Runali is very heartfelt and sounds like their singing about a love for a lady called Runali (that’s my guess anyway since I don’t understand what they’re talking about. Ha!)
The album is also a far cry from my days listening to the Gypsy Kings with my Dad as it is very modern and at times they try to infuse elements of hip hop, jazz even scratching on some of the tracks.
Quoting from the band’s review on sixdegreesrecords.com: The name Ojos de Brujo translates as "Eyes of the Wizard". They chose this because they think of wizards, witches, and sorcerers as the people who have more vision than the rest of the population. And they think that music and every other art form should be trying to help make the world become more conscious and aware. A strong gypsy spirit runs through this band and listening to this album you can definitely feel they favour the spirit of pushing boundaries and being free in expressing their music, their art.
My personal favourites are Color, Sultanas de Merkaillo and Silencio.
Listening to Ojos de Brujo has made me believe that ‘originality’ is not a mere figment. Obviously, they were facing tons of challenges in the process of making this album; but to me, they have succeeded in many ways. First and foremost, these nine fine musicians of Spain are clearly aware of who they are, as they draw on the flamenco—so effortlessly—as the core of their music. Even if I have never heard of flamenco music before, I suppose my body will naturally move somewhat like those Spaniards did.
Second of all, the way they assemble lots of elements of ‘genres’ and ‘moods’ like the rap and scratching/turntablism of hip-hop, the improvisations of jazz, the polyrhythm of Indian Subcontinent and Latin America was purely based on respect and understanding. These elements were beautifully flowing in and out, up and down, through seamless—may I say magical?—transitions, creating a new harmony of rhythm and sound in almost every corner of their songs. “Color”, “No Somos Maquinas”, “Sultanas De Merkaillo”, and “Silencio”, among others, you got to love this!
And last but not least, another successful attempt was the popular music format that they use to carry on their music within this album, or their previous ones like “Vengue” and “Bari”. The 3 to 5 minutes length of time in each song, with colorful theme in the art cover, and not to mention the fun and entertaining music videos of “Color” and “Sultanas De Merkaillo”, was so efficient as points of entry for thousands of audience around the world. One thing that is so essential to me was that how easily they managed to put a smile on my face every time I listen to this album; despite the complexity, struggles, and challenges they reflected in their music. Exelente!
In the field of world music, (traditional) Balinese music and other tradition-based music in general “cannot be separated” from the (geographical) location, community and all life aspects present where the music lives. (Traditional) Balinese music is a part and a unity of: music, dance, theater, visual arts, religious rituals, beliefs, nature, everyday life, togetherness, tolerance, and other aspects of life.
The music album ‘Sacred Rhythm of Bali’ has documented this in a rather concise way, so we may get to know and try to understand Bali (her people and all of her life aspects) holistically through ‘sound’ (music).
In this album we have four different groups, who are: Br. Ulapan Belahkiuh-Badung, Sukawati-Gianyar Village, Kintamani-Bangli and STSI Denpasar; where each are present with their own different ‘gamelan’ (orchestra). We have semara pegulingan, gender wayang, kecak and gong gede. Perhaps the one form missing is the bamboo gamelan (Jegog).
As a ‘musical language’, Gamelan has its own grammar and technique, which encompasses among others the ‘interlocking’ technique, and there are hierarchies in the role of each musical instrument (kolotomi). From a single ‘balungan’, filled and ‘decorated, they form a melody; until such moment a composition is presented collectively. This shows that the people of Bali and traditional communities in general (in Indonesia) do many things collectively: individuals are truly part of their communities.
By listenting to the ‘Sacred Rhythm of Bali’ music album, we can get to know and feel the cultural diversity of the Balinese people. Kecak is one expression of Balinese culture that is unique, and is perhaps unequaled anywhere. By using vocals in a kind of ‘mouth Gamelan’ and set within the Ramayana ephos, Kecak becomes quite a powerful form of cultural expression.
‘Sacred rhythm’ is exactly how I would describe Balinese music. No one can deny the beauty of this island. Mystical and peaceful yet not to be underestimated as it holds a great power from within that when it decides to wake up it will come with a vengeance.
At least that is the feeling I get when I listen to Balinese music.
It’s funny how I can feel a strong sense of community and togetherness while listening to this album. Maybe because there are so many sounds (and singing/chanting) in a song that it has to involve a number of people working together in order to create one mesmerising piece of music. Each song sounds so majestic like it’s coming from deep down of the belly of the earth.
I have nothing but respect and admiration for the Balinese humble and beautiful culture; and I am proud to be able to say that it is part of the rich culture of Indonesia.
Bali, which I knew for its beautiful landscapes, arts, mysticism, and social interaction within the heavy influence of Hinduism spiritualism, was perfectly ‘illustrated’ in this great roots music compilation. I can’t help but notice that from the gamelan music with its ‘progressive’ characteristic and interlocking technique—which I imagined how incredibly fast yet so fluent those hands of the musicians, as if they were on an ‘automatic’ mode—to the hypnotic vocal based orchestra of Kecak, was nothing like I had ever heard before. Indeed, they’re quite different to most of the music of Balinese dance performances that intended for commercial or entertainment use; although I was still struck by those magical performances too.
The wide range of sounds and arrangements in each of these musical wonders not only determined how music—for centuries—had become one of their vital ritual towards the Gods and their natural surroundings, but also reflected the social conscience within Balinese people that is still well-conserved. Another intriguing element that I love in this album is how the songs were perfectly compiled, as if from one song to another they were communicating with each other, telling me a story from deep, deep within.
To me personally, this music compilation has reminded me that there is something bigger than all of us humans.
More info about Hans Zimmer
Inception is a film portraying a journey to ‘inner space’ through the manipulation of dreams, with the goal of fulfilling other dreams and purposes. Being connected through dreams (collective dreaming, or ‘ensemble dreaming’). Dream ‘within dream’ within ‘dream’ exploring the deepest of dreams, as if exploring outer space to fulfill other dreams.
Hans Zimmer in his soundtrack for the film Inception, invites us to journey into ‘the deepest dream universe’ through sound. It is not easy to achieve this; it requires a precise vehicle, efficient, to penetrate and move forward well.
In my view Hans Zimmer has identified the correct and simple method to do so through his composition “One Simple Idea”. Hans Zimmer has chosen several simple musical elements to build something big and ‘strong’ (an orchestra).
The first element is ‘sound region’ (pitch): the minor 2nd interval, or semitone, is used as a motive (and fundamental melody). In ‘One Simple Idea’ the notes ‘e–f–e’ and its reversal ‘d–cis–d’are used as the basic melody (theme) with relatively long rhythms (duration element), played by the string section.
The character of the ‘minor 2nd’ interval is very sharp (cutting). This interval can be read as a ‘major 7th’ with a floating character. The cutting sound moves vertically (through harmony, texture) supported by very strong low notes, constant rhythmic and pressing sounds, so that it feels as if pushing the basic melodies. Dynamics (volume elements) rise, ‘crescendo’, adding to the pushing effect.
These elements are used with a sharper and increasingly stronger character especially within the compositions: Radical Notion, Dream Within A Dream and Dream Is Collapsing. Low notes become even more dominant; brass, strings, percussions become even stronger and sharper. Texture: repetitive and very urgent. All this brings us even further within the multi-layered dream universe.
Other compositions: Half Remembered Dream, We Built Our Own World, Time, Paradox, balances things out, develops, gives support to the theme and opens even deeper tales, until finally in the compositions: Old Souls, Waiting For A Train are ‘their very own tales within dreams’.
It’s a very intense, eerie and an epic soundtrack. It makes you feel like something terrible is about to take place almost giving you the feeling that you need to run and hide. Some of the tracks are quite sad as well such as Old Souls and Waiting for a Train. I love how it combines orchestral arrangements with electronics. But I guess that is what Hans Zimmer is renowned for. The soundtrack has brilliantly wrapped the film with suspense, fear, a constant sense of urgency, tragedy and elegance. Mombassa is brilliant!
Watching the film “Inception” to me was quite a satisfaction. It was both entertaining and to quote of what my friend Arfan said, it also has successfully ‘tickled’ all of my senses. The same atmosphere had also arisen as soon as I heard the Film’s Original Soundtrack by Hans Zimmer. The epic “Half Remembered Dream”, “We Build Our Own World”, and “Dream is Collapsing” are examples of how Mr. Zimmer is one reputed ‘visual’ composer with his strong background of classical music, as he played with dynamics and harmony so intensely yet so efficiently it would govern layers of ‘dreamy’ images in my head. While the track “Mombasa” with its tight rhythm and dense minor melody was an ideal interpretation of having a good bad dream. Dream on dreamer…
|Last Updated on Sunday, 16 December 2012 21:47|