I’m going in a slightly new direction here reviewing and presenting some music that is not necessarily piano-related. Why? Because, honestly, all of us musicians (regardless of the big meta-genres of classical, jazz, rock, electronica, folk, etc.) live in this crazy postmodern era and we’re all vying for attention in one way or another from audiences. In the interests of considering all working musicians as colleagues on some level, I’d like to begin writing about some of the neat stuff being created and performed today. After all, the music world in the 21st century is richer, wider, and more accessible than at any other point in history.
So I’m starting a new category at my blog called “Music Reviews” and this will be the first post in that category. The posts in this category will be my forum to bring some attention to new music, obscure repertoire, good soundtracks – basically whatever is floating my boat at the moment. Maybe it will be piano music, maybe not. Today’s pick is indeed a soundtrack album: the dreamy and colorful music from Werner Herzog’s films THE WILD BLUE YONDER and THE WHITE DIAMOND. The album is called Requiem for a Dying Planet (on the Winter & Winter label; a link to the album at Amazon is provided below the post text).
I was quite taken aback by the eclectic yet thoroughly organic nature of the music I was hearing when screening The White Diamond a few nights ago. Herzog is one of my favorite directors and he has been on a creative tear recently with no less than six movies produced since 2000. Who knows, maybe there could even be a seventh by the time anyone reads this post! For anyone who likes movies about redemption and atonement, The White Diamond is a poignant must-see documentary. But I am here to discuss some of the music I heard, so you can read about the movie here and here if you want to find out more.
The musicians gathered for this soundtrack include cellist Ernst Reijseger, Senegalese singer Mola Sylla, and a vocal group from Sardinia called the Tenore e Cuncordu de Orosei. It would be correct to assume that this improbable assembly would produce a new and different kind of sound combination. The style reached by these musicians is ultimately reflective and calming; yet it also seems provocatively ancient and authentic despite the clash of cello sounds meshed with two different vocal traditions.
The track “Sanctus” (listen to an excerpt at Amazon.com here) combines all the musicians together in a kind of haunted, lonely hymn that sways with just a hint of gospel styling in the harmony. Upon close listening whenever the tenore are singing together, it is possible to detect multiple tones being produced by some of the singers. This is a feat usually heard in traditional Tibetan throat-singing, but the technique has obviously reached other cultures and peoples.
Many of the tracks feature cellist Ernst Reijseger’s never-ending creative vocabulary: He plays harmonics, fiddles around and below the bridge, and creates myriad effects with arpeggiando, pizzicato, and tremolo techniques. Some of these effects can be heard in isolation on the tracks “Intro Dank Sei Dir Gott” and “Bad News from Outer Space.” I get a keen sense of improvisation as I listened throughout the film, and indeed Reijseger is a seasoned improviser. It is never readily apparent when improvisation meets hard and rigorous composition, and in this case it is a magnificent blur.
It is interesting to note that the soundtrack album is subtitled “Sounds for two films by Werner Herzog.” (The emphasis is mine.) These tracks are certainly among the sounds found in the films, but there is a deeper suggestion of fragility and fragmentation by not calling them songs or pieces. A further evocation is the idea of the ephemeral moment; perhaps we are merely lucky to have captured on a disc such rarified instances of beauty created by human beings flung together through the whims of the visionary director Herzog. I, for one, wouldn’t mind another foray into additional “sounds” from this specific group of musicians. That guy Herzog is on to a good thing.
Requiem for a Dying Planet