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CD 1 [52:13]
Naked We Stand
She (really) Had To Go (2006)
Barbara BENARY
Jigalullaby (2006)
Music Box (2003)
Bang On A Tin Can
River Kotekan
Telling Time
- for gamelan and glass (2008)
CD 2 [60 07]
A Memorial Suite (2002) (1 Barbara BENARY; 2 Laura LIBEN; 3 Daniel GOODE; 4 David SIMONS; 5 David DEMNITZ; 6 Laura LIBEN; 7 Daniel GOODE)
Kacapi from 'Woman's Song - The Story of Roro Mendut' (2003)
Descarga Elizabeth
Gamelan Around
Daniel GOODE
Sad/Happy (2006)
Gamelan - Son of Lion (Barbara Benary; David Demnitz; Miguel Frasconi; Daniel Goode; Patrick Grant; Lisa Karrer; Jody Kruskal; Laura Liben; Denman Maroney; John Morton; David Simons) with guests: Anna Dembska (voice), Marija Ilic (piano); Joseph Kubera (piano); Bill Ruyle (drums)
rec. no dates given, Rockland Recording; Hungry Hollow Studio. DDD
INNOVA 718 [52:13 + 60:07]


Experience Classicsonline

This is inventive and ear-stimulating stuff from composers happy to use gamelan and not necessarily to be limited by its ancient rules and conventions.

Naked We Stand is based upon Philippine Kulintang. It mingles mystery and awe with the fast and tense and the slow and resonant. The Morton work – we are told – combines the composer's fascination with music-boxes their construction and deconstruction. The piece has a trembling glassy loftiness. Jigalullaby features the voices of Anna Dembska and Lisa Karrer with Barbara Benary, violin. The music has the quality of a Hebridean lullaby with cross-cutting from a Cape Breton fiddle. Music Box by Jody Kruskal takes us to the Pacific rim with gamelan and a quartet of flutes and violins. This work has the greatest strangeness. The ‘speaking’ flutes add tension. Without being minimalist this music pays sinuous court to tonality. Laura Liben’s bang on a tin can is minimalist with an intricately woven pulse. Lisa Karrer’s River Kotekan has the voices of Karrer and Dembska again and the pianos of Marija Ilic and Joseph Kubera with drums and gamelan played by Bill Ruyle and Davis Simons. It’s unoperatic and honest with a fast pattering weave. It’s very much a let-your-hair-down piece. It describes sublime canoe trips down the east branch of the Delaware. Along the way we hear a piano rumba which develops a Nancarrow-like insistence and an exuberant smile. Miguel Frasconi's serene raindrop progression in Telling Time has one player playing tuned glass continuously while each of gamelan players doubles on one glass instrument. Each player articulates a personal narrative of time and memory.

The second disc starts with A Memorial Suite which traces its origins to the World Trade Center atrocity. Benary's song uses multiple voices and then one voice and then just the gamelan's plangent yet half-urgent thoughtfulness. The Liben piece conveys an emptiness ready to be filled by great events. It has a stony and unresonant sound. Daniel Goode’s clarinet and violins parade a strangely Purcellian dissonant refraction of America the Beautiful. The Simons piece is obsessive and anechoic. The David Demnitz piece has America the beautiful strained through Celtic melancholy merging into emptiness with shreds of Land of hope and glory. Another Liben segment has a slow drip and a sense of tired hopeless. The next Goode track is slow and drained of hope. The Celtic slur of his writing contrasts with the sparse liquid tremble of the gamelan.

Kacapi is by Lisa Karrer. It sounds very Japanese with an hypnotically looped melody and a strangely jungle feel to the writing. In this sense it is similar to Strange Apex on CD1. Demnitz’s Descarga Elizabeth is slow moving and sparse to suggest the patience, accommodation and acceptance which are part of a loving long-term relationship. Traffic by Laura Liben is the oldest piece here. Written in 1980 it opens with a howling flute which moves into Celtic sadness, Reichian minimalism and an acceleration to the close. Maroney’s Gamelan Around features slow impacts with slight rhythm disconnects perhaps evocative of the snipping of synaptic coordination. Daniel Goode’s Sad/Happy - Brahms meets klezmer. The clarinet lead is Brahmsian but howls and flies like a banshee and then like a seductress. It is the longest single strand of music in this set with typical klezmer melancholy and a touch of ecstasy. All of this has gamelan accompaniment. It’s a hairy klezmer hoe-down of a piece ending on a whooping squeak.

This 2 CD collection is not for gamelan purists unless they are on an adventure holiday.

Rob Barnett

American Gamelan Institute
Gamelan, Son of Lion
More about some of the members of Gamelan, Son of Lion


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