Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Music from the Morning of the World

It has been quite some time since I last posted about music. And since I haven't bought or heard anything new (or new to me) of late (Mrs. Meridian's playing of Coldplay's X&Y doesn't count), I thought I'd post on one of my very favorite albums from a long time back.
Music from the Morning of the World, a recording of music from Bali, was the first album in Nonesuch Record's Explorer series of ethnic and traditional musics (at their homepage, go to "Complete Index" to find the Explorer series). The first gamelan music I'd ever heard is on this album; so also is the extraordinary Ketjak dance, also known as the Balinese Monkey Chant. That little clip, by the way, doesn't begin to give you a full sense of this 22-minute-long song, its dramatic shifts in mood, its solo singers, etc.
Balinese and Javanese music, played on the gongs and bells you see in this picture, is like no other I know of. It has structure, but that structure isn't exactly 12-bar blues. Rather, its phrases are long and at times seem to repeat endlessly, thus seeming almost motionless . . . until, with little warning, the tempo changes and then, after a while, changes back as though nothing had happened. So all that, in combination with the reverberations of the gamelan and bells that continue to color the air long after the initial strike create a kind of dreaminess in me as I listen. It creates its own space, one that don't look a heck of a lot like Kansas. But it demands your attention, so much so that I don't listen to it very often.
So: if your ears hunger for something different, this music should more than satisfy. Happy--and adventurous--listening.

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