Sunday, January 17, 2016


When the past future meets meets the future past


Do not expect any Chinese music here, meaning using the Chinese scale and Chinese instruments, etc. It is not in any way folkloric music. It is Chinese music all right, but symphonic Chinese music composed for the international stage and to be performed by international orchestras in international concert halls.

Getting off that international stage is difficult as David Bowie proved it in January 2016. Getting on it is just as difficult and Ge Gan-Ru is the evidence of it, the hard proof. And this recording is the absolute signature of the composer who has managed to get on that stage and is able to be heard in the whole world because his music is unique, uniquely Chinese since he is Chinese and uniquely universal since he is on the international stage. It is this uniqueness and universality that are interesting here.

The titles would lead us to considering this music is descriptive, narrative even. It may very well be, in the mind of the composer, but we will never know what exactly is behind every single note. It would be vain to try to reconstruct Shanghai or the Cultural Revolution in this music. But we can feel the emotions, the power of the world and at times the powerlessness of the child, of the man, of the butterfly in front of their predators, and yet the predators are nothing but paper dragons, tigers with teeth cut out of paper.

The first element you get when you enter this music is that each instrument, each section of the orchestra, each soloist in each section are playing a separate score and the composition is a real composition of the various separate scores that can come together at some moments of unity but that are only dancing, playing, to and with one another. This diversity, this exploded constant re-composition of the sections, soloists and individual instruments is fascinating. It reflects of course modern life in a city and it is easy to say it describes the buoyant life of a boulevard or a main avenue in a big city seen through the wondering and enchanted eyes of a child and then a young man. This very modern, must I say, recomposed orchestra, recomposed auditory universe enables you to exactly hear and feel the sounds and sonorities of every single instrument, every single note even.

The second characteristic is that each section and at times each instrument have their own tempos. You get thus into a multifarious and polyformic universe, like a jungle of sorts in which each plant, each tree, each bush have their own logics, their own dynamics, their own futures and pasts growing one way or the other in the present instant of your hearing. This composer has reached beyond polyrhythm to attain some new level of rhythmic composition. It is no longer two or there rhythms that are composed one into the other like a voodoo trance in a simple slow dance, nor two or three rhythmic tempos which join into a unison every so often though regularly planned and programmed by the regular measure beats of each tempo. Here these multiple tempos become the matter of the composition as much as the instruments and the melodies. The various tempos are not articulated one onto or into the others, they are not simply juxtaposed one next to the others, but they are composed one with the others, just the same way a bouquet is composed of several various flowers arranged together into a unity that can be captured by your eyes as a whole or as a composition of various units.

This literally squirming tempo composition is giving to the music a life that is in no way mechanical, programmable, predictable. Every single measure can open on something new and different because one section of the orchestra or just one instrument comes in with its own coloration, its own tempo, its own melody. We are beyond anything we may expect. Too often in classical symphonic music we can predict the interval that is going to come next because it is the perfect interval to express the feeling that has been expressed or growing so far. Composers then try to be original by finding the interval that cannot be foreseen. But in this music there is absolutely no predictability, no prefabricated architecture. It is the experiential experimental and existential evidence of what Ray Jackendoff finally admitted when he tried to produce a transformative syntax of music: there is no possible predictable syntax in music, hence there cannot be any transformational syntax of it. And here the architecture of this music comes only from the mind of the composer and it is his way of looking at and reconstructing his own vision, in this case recollected memorized vision, into a dense forest of multitudinous crowds of myriads of multifaceted evanescent and yet forever impressed beings, items, individual patterns, heterogeneous silhouettes and miscellaneous sketches, all of them surrounding you with a jungle of powerful jinn or dangerous monsters there to assault your conscious mind in order to make you run for refuge into your deeper unconscious hell of a forgotten quagmire of eclectic memories.

This music has the power of all incantation, be they religious like some psalms or verses from the Bible or the Quran, or be they sorcery and wizardry trying to transmute you into some kind of sorcerer or witch doctor able to communicate with the memories of your chromosomes, the recollections of your smallest cells or corpuscles in the densest parts of your bones. Remember what comes from before your birth, or if you are a very intense believer, from after your death, since our death is programmed in our cells, we should be able to remember that programming and thus know how we are going to end up in this life and step out of it when we are ready like David Bowie in January 2016 two days after his 69th birthday under the light of a Black Star.

It is this feeling of the coming together of the past and the future, or gestation and funeral, of what was and what will be, a “will be” that is in fact contained in the “was” of before, a “will be” that is in fact nothing but a “was to be,” “is to be,” and “already is” in our marrow and brain.

This music is for the coming future more than from the outgoing past. This music is Chinese in that very dimension: it is giving birth to a new world that cannot be born by all those who have dominated so far but can only be born from and by those who have been rejected, neglected, exploited by those who pretend to be the leaders of this world in their vain manifest destiny that is neither a destiny because there is no destiny, the future being pure creation, nor manifest since it is nothing but an imposed alienation on everyone else. This music is neither dancing to the music of James Monroe nor swinging to the beating drums of Mao Zedong. It is swaying, swinging and dancing to the so far unheard arabesques of some butterfly pollenizing beautiful flowers behind which some predating gecko is hiding waiting for the time when its long tongue will unroll to catch the butterfly. Be careful colorful fluttering being, life is a serious business that requires work and effort. There is no ease that is not earned by hard and long struggle against oneself first of all and against not necessarily favorable circumstances.

That’s what this music is for me. The prediction of an unpredictable future.


Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?