Every detail of this production bespeaks luxury. This
runs the gamut from the highest quality resonant sound to the expensive
reproductions of ancient Egyptian instruments to the encyclopedic yet
accessible detail of the notes and vivid yet refined colour photography.
There is no jewel case; instead we get the increasingly prevalent hard-card
sleeve, CD mounting-stem and integral booklet.
As to authenticity the booklet (in Spanish and English)
points out that the results are based on more than ten years of research
by Sr. Perez drawing on a range of artefacts (relics, papyri) from the
pyramids as well as analysis of the folklore of the Nile valley, Coptic
music and the iconography of Egypt. Ultimately of course such realisations
can only be conjectural as you would expect from material dating back
to circa 2500 B.C. Perhaps some scholars will do battle over such matters.
The rest of us would do well to listen instead.
The music here is always spare and often solemn in
keeping with the Egyptian's Scriabin-like belief that music is part
of a, greater continuum linking dance, the starry skies, death and cosmogony.
There is nothing approaching a large ensemble or orchestral effect.
Its character of the music is pentatonic, modal. The instruments used
include voices, harp (stunningly recreated with sponsorship from Sony
España by Sr Arroyo employing rare woods and other rich materials
and built by Pedro Lopis), arghoul (pharaonic flute), double clarinet,
tambourines and drums, sistra, wooden and other clappers, handclapping
For most moderately well informed readers these tracks
will variously call to mind music of medieval times (Machaut etc) and
of the Crusaders. This is specially strong in the five hymn tracks (2,
4, 5, 7, 9). Melisma features strongly in the vocal contributions often
punctuated with bass and tenor emphasised drums. From the twentieth
century we may well be reminded of the music of Vaughan Williams (Flos
Campi), Alan Hovhaness (in courtly Armenian, Korean and Japanese
modes - try Ashet), and even Reich in the accelerating clapping
in track 3. A tenor voice puts in an appearance for track 5 joined at
the mid-point by some gloriously buzzing basses and shadowing woodwind.
Pair Dance (track 6) is instrumental (winds, drums and clapping).
The strangeness and sway and momentum of the Processional hymn is for
me the most vivid track (9). I expected more harp contributions but
in fact the instrument appears only sparingly. Its most commanding appearance
is in the form of a minimalist harp duo in the final mesmeric track
The Palace is Beautiful. Everything is rendered in richly directional
sound which at the same time avoids gimmicky effects.
These sounds, across thousands of years, are likely
to find ready ears from the generation brought up on Riverdance, Nova
Celtica, mysticism, Capercaillie, the Bagad, uillean pipes, Breton heritage
and Alan Stivell. Others will find it an intriguing voyage of discovery
even if the element of speculation must surely be strong.
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