Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Gamelan + Claude Vivier + Gerard Grisey + 23 Skidoo

This is a cool Gamelan video I found. Very groovy, not as angular as other Gamelan I have heard. Gamelan is the indigenous music of the Bali and Java islands. It is very idiosyncratic percussion music, using many gongs and cymbals, as well as the use of some flute. It has had quite the influence on western classical music dating back to Debussy, whom first heard it back in 1889 at the World's Fair in Paris. In Canada as well, many of the french Canadian Composers became obsessed with the genre, including one great composer, Claude Vivier.

Claude Vivier is regarded as spectralist composer. Spectral music, in a nutshell, is the study and use very remote harmonics in writing music. The chords and sounds used are typically very glistening and bright, one might imagine a prism, and the light being refracted from it. You could use this analogy, basic notes, and the many strands of sound that they omit. Many composers study harmonics and use them in very different ways. La Monte Young for instance uses the study of remote harmonics and pure tones, in his tunings for the Well Tuned Piano. Kyle Gann has an excellent analysis of this work for those who are curious. Also artists like Glenn Branca, Rhys Chatham, and Sunn O))), approach the study of harmonics through volume and resonate frequencies. The louder the music the more the harmonics are massaged out and the walls begin to shake. Gamelan as well, has a signature sound due to the tones produced by the gongs. They are very strange and harmonically very rich.

Anyways, back to Claude Vivier, I have decided to upload a few of my favorite compositions by him. Just by listening you can hear the influence of the Gamelan. One particular piece, Pulau Dewata, written for any combination of instruments, is Vivier's take on Gamelan music. When played by a percussion ensemble, the reference is very obvious, but it also works miraculously well with a string quartet given the very idiosyncratic stop-start rhythms and dynamics of Gamelan music. The other pieces I have included by Vivier is Zipangu (the name given to Japan by Marco Polo), a piece for string orchestra, and Lonely Child. Lonely Child, a piece for orchestra, can be seen as a very autobiographical work, sung in Vivier's own invented language. In 1983 Vivier was murdered in Paris under bizarre circumstances, he was a homosexual and killed by a prostitute.


Also another amazing gamelan influenced work, by industrial post-punk group 23 Skidoo, is Urban Gamelan, recorded in 1984. The rhythms and sounds are very respectful to the gamelan tradition but through the gaze of punk, a very good record indeed!


I've have also included for a download Gerard Grisey's magnus opus, Espaces Acoustiques. Grisey is spectralisms most well known composer, and fans of Sunn O))) (particularly fans of Monoliths and Dimensions) will love this record. The drones and tones heard are thick and BAD as hell! Do listen!




Guillermo said...

Thank you for the Claude Vivier piece and the music share! I've grown fascinated with his music of late, and hope to offer a few broadcast recordings of his sounds on my own blog- http://statework.blogspot.com . I hope you stop by a bit later on, when it's up! Thanks again.

Zachary Devereux Fairbrother said...

Hey I plan on uploading some more very shortly. I have his entire cbc anthology as well as the SMCQ cd of his works. I'll check out your broadcast for sure! Take care!