Terje Rypdal is perhaps better known in the jazz
world than as a composer of ‘serious’ contemporary music,
but the ECM label has supported several of his larger scale works, including
, was commissioned by the Hilliard Ensemble and
uses texts drawn from Native American poetry. These are evocative of
the natural world, but are alas not reproduced in the booklet.
The colours of Rypdal’s sustained electric guitar lines are a
unifying factor in this work, soaring over the wide variety of textures
and sounds emerging from a huge orchestra. Without the texts were are
left guessing somewhat, but the orchestra clearly serves to illustrate
elemental forces, chaos, weather, landscape. The Hilliard Ensemble are
sometimes asked to do unexpected things, and it is fascinating to hear
their distinctive tones in this context, doing stuff which you wouldn’t
think would be within their comfort zone.
Terje Rypdal is “a musician who has spent much of his creative
life in the spaces between the genres”, so you would expect this
to be something of a mixture of styles. There are moments which might
call to mind the orchestral eccentricities of Rued Langgaard’s
of the Spheres
, there are grand cinematic gestures, moments
of jazzy bluesyness and - it has to be said - a certain amount overblown
pomp-rock tackiness. There are also some segments of tender beauty and
striking effectiveness, but none of it really gels into something I
would take with me to my desert island. Such works will impact on people
in different ways, and I would be the last to dismiss the magnificent
scale of ambition and energetic forcefulness of the work. Some of the
best material seems to emerge almost by way of transition, such as the
marvellous field of sound towards the end of My Music reaches To
. This is then followed by the Mantovani-esque schmaltz of
But Then Again
, and my spirits sink somewhat. I’m as eclectic
as the next man and have no difficulty with segmented compositions,
crossovers or on-going switches in style, but I miss the steely rod
of a sustained structure and message which will drag me through the
piece, mouth agape, from beginning to end. There are too many glittery
And The Sky Was Coloured With Waterfalls And Angels
by the pyrotechnics of the Cannes’ International Fireworks Festival.
It starts as if someone had opened a soundproofed door onto a concert
which was already halfway through. Rypdal’s heavily resonant guitar
is again featured, though by no means ubiquitously. Orchestral effects
familiar from the earlier work of Penderecki can be identified, though
Rypdal is a touch heavy-handed with the percussion to my mind. This
is darker music than Melodic Warrior
and the better for it, though
Rypdal has a knack of hamstringing himself by over-egging his pudding.
Let’s leave out the glockenspiel for a start, it won’t be
missed, and we’ll avoid all Ronnie Hazlehurst naffness at a stroke.
Growling low brass always works well, and the massive orchestral crescendos
in Waterfalls 2
are fine though there is a feature
of the recording which works against some of the more active moments.
The violins are quite closely recorded, and leap out on occasion where
it would be better if they blended into the general sonic picture. Rypdal
is better on his way up in these crescendos, but doesn’t seem
to have a strong idea of how to climb down from them.
The booklet notes by Tyran Grillo receive my ‘Tin Bum of Rangoon’
award for 2013, with almost every sentence a masterpiece of the most
vacuous artsy guff imaginable. These are both live performances, and
there is a little audience noise here and there though the hugeness
of the sound usually makes this inaudible. Someone coughs into a microphone
at 3:00 into the first movement of And The Sky…
a little more disturbing, but is refreshing evidence of an untampered-with
live recording. I don’t want to be hard on Rypdal, who is one
of the good guys of our musical community, but I come away from this
kind of thing asking myself what he would do with something like a string
quartet. This is a release which fizzes with ambition and sonic spectacle,
but I wonder how many of us are left asking ourselves where the journey
has taken us, and what we’ve learned.
Fizzes with ambition and sonic spectacle.