Friday, 22 February 2008

RED MOON (musick & other arts)


Original Issue: 1974 Shandar (SR 83517)

Reissue: 1995 New Tone (
NT 6742 2) Buy it here!

Margot-meter: 5 moons / 5

1 Strumming Music

I think I have no words to really express the beauty of this work!
5 moons are not enough for this MINIMALISM MONSTER; angelic, visceral, intense, visionary, otherworldly, alien!
This is one of the most important records of all doubts!

Twenty-minutes in, and you'll be floating in space, harmonic overtones all around you, aural mirages like the mermaid chant.

Charlemagne is a true magician and, with his musick and approach to the musick, really influenced me during the years.

Charlemagne; thank you for exist!

From Amazon

This disc contains one of the more remarkable examples of New York minimalism. Strumming Music was a solo piano recording by the performance artist and composer Charlemagne Palestine, originally released in 1974. It has long been a cult recording amongst lovers of early minimalism and drone music, but has also made some surprising friends in its time.

Strumming Music takes its title from the playing technique involved--alternating left and right hands in a regular rhythm over a duration of nearly an hour. After a brief introduction, the pianist plays single notes in the two hands (at the interval of a
fifth, one which plays a significant role in the harmony of the work), but gradually the notes are increasingly supplanted by chords, sometimes quite dense ones.

During the performance, the sustaining pedal of the Bösendorfer piano is held down, allowing a shimmering harmonic haze to develop from the resonating piano strings, as the repetitive rhythms combine with the changing harmonies and uneven articulation to create a host of fascinating aural illusions. The overall effect is (at least to me) joyously extrovert, with the rhythms and sub-rhythms, the bright diatonic harmonies and the gradual acceleration of the music all melding together very effectively.

This is certainly old-school minimalism, with its concentration on simple processes and its complete disinterest in being commercial (Palestine has been characteristically dismissive of the tendency of composers such as Glass, Reich and Adams to move towards the mainstream). Nonetheless, in its swagger and its sheer energy, it reminds this listener of how much energy mainstream minimalism has lost since its mid-60s origins. This is essential listening for those who love early minimalism; other contemporary music lovers should approach with a little more caution.

Edward Wright

from All Music Guide

One readily pictures Charlemagne Palestine sitting at the Boesendorfer piano bestrewn with teddy bears, glass of cognac at hand, depressing (permanently) the sustain pedal and beginning to caress the keys. Softly at first, in calm rhythmic rows, as though coaxing the sound out. A steady, velvet hammering emerges, gradually gaining force and eventually assuming true physicality as the instrument undergoes a relentless, mounting assault.

No indication of recording date is given, though Joan LaBarbara's review of a 1975 concert is included in the booklet and one assumes this performance is from around that time. To that extent, it fits in with the minimalist ethos that was then prevalent; if anything, "Strumming Music" is slightly reminiscent of Steve Reich's work from the early 70's both in the rhythms employed and in the obsessiveness of concept.

But Palestine occupies a unique place among the minimalists, perhaps bridging the gap between composers like Reich and La Monte Young. By keeping the piano strings undampened and by the considerable physical force he used while playing, he allows clouds of overtones to manifest in ways that suggest the sort of justly intonated tunings that Young employed although, in fact, none are used.

Technical concerns aside, Palestine appears to have been aiming for an ecstatic kind of experience, one similar to that aspired to by Eastern singers like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan or Pandit Pran Nath. It's an idea that perhaps doesn't bear repeating more than once, but that one time is pretty thrilling.

Strumming Music is a monumental work and belongs in the collection of any self-respecting fan of contemporary minimalism.

Brian Olewnick


Margot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Palestine : of course.
International Harvester : of course.
Shirley Collins : of course.

That is a case to say :
all the best,


ps : Palestine is playing in Paris soon,in La Cite de la Musique,for those interested.

cpm said...

Thanks for this! I've been wanting to hear this recordings for quite some while.

giu said...

Thank you Margot!!
your choices are so good and unexepcted

Anonymous said...

Thanks! Beautiful.

Anonymous said...

I have Four Manefestations On Six Elements and I must say that I consider Charlemagne to be the true king of minimalism. Ultimately minimalism should not just be minimal but it should take something very basic and exploit it to the greatest level. You could think of it as sort of a microscope, leaving one amazed at the amount of activity going on in that small space. Well, I think a lot of minimalists simply take small spaces and stretch them out rather than magnify them. Charlemagne is on a different mission, searching for the golden sound. And indeed much of the draw of his music is actually the overtones playing off one another. I cannot explain his work any better than that, but it's awesome. Thanks again Margot!

Margot said...

Charlemagne is a legend! and yes, I love "Four Manifestations..." probably a better starting point than "Strumming...".
Reading your definition of Minimalism, Bernhard Gunter's "Un peu de neige salie" springs to my mind! Legendary and groundbreaking work

aliquidlunch said...

thank you for this wonderful album

Ronny Wærnes said...

Thanks for this beauty! Just found your blog, and it is already very promising!