die Schachtel Prima Materia : The Tail of the Tiger (I,1974-1976)*****
I know of only a handful of successful new music releases that are a thoughtful consideration of meditative music, compared to such a powerful recording like that of a Tibetan Monks Tantric ritual. Stockhausen’s second version of his “Stimmung” performed by Singcircle (Hyperion, CDA66115) uses vowels and consonants of Gods and deities, which are related with the 7 days of the week, and repeats them in certain patterns in that way they gently flow into each other. This album, in combination with experimental singer Tamia’s first private release was used and appreciated as an introduction for my radio show for the last 10 years without much change. It is not so related with overtones, but still has other ideas which are equally interesting and brilliant as a performance.
The second example of Prima Materia comes closer to a comparable idea I could eventually describe as a kind of western raga/raag form of the coming to deeper concentration “Om…” (this “Om” in our Western world section with new music and electronic music could easily be replaced by “Ohm”, if you wish, like the great organisation ‘Sound Ohm’ did, of which I think the label Die Schachtel is a section.
Italian born Roberto Laneri graduated as a composer at the University of California with a thesis on ‘sound as the vehicle of altered states of consciousnesses'. His so called “extended vocal techniques” were since 1972 at first developed at the University of California, with the help of an organist Susanne Hendricks, and, once in Italy, was performed by various vocalists (Gianni Nebbiosi, Claudio Ricciardi, Alvin Curran, Michiko Hirayama, Maria Monti, Nicola Bernardini, and others). Since 1974 the group began touring with performances in Berlin, Köln, Zagreb, Rome, and Paris. One 33’30” performance was recorded for a private pressing LP in 1977. Two of the other live recordings (Berlin in 1974, a recording of about 16 minutes (other than almost half an hour, as indicated), and Rome, 1976, a performance of nearly 14 minutes) are included here on this cd reissue too. The musicians individually researched and developed vocal techniques which were originally used in Tantric rituals around the Himalaya, and were based upon the use of overtones expressed in a state of deeper concentration, a state which is necessary to achieve this technical inner control. Furthermore Laneri says that non-sound as well as sound here have an equal role, like breathing and a time spanning fluidity with conscious inner communications making a better synthesis to all the participating aspects, creating thus a sound with a great portion of a more collective and inner strength.
The LP recording sounds like a very consciously performed and built up sphere. With at first, each individual voice distinguishable, it evolves and becomes its own organic interactive soundsystem. There are parts where individual ideas merge, with a few unexpected extra sounds, which are at times a bit amusing within a respectful way and still having enough power to drag your attention back into the wholeness of the performance. We hear varied techniques, from bass to flute-like overtones as well as combinations from notes. On the second part, the group becomes more like a multi-harmonic wave of energy, something which I think could be achieved even better or with slightly different effect with somewhat bigger groups. The Berlin performance has its own deep concentration towards a certain vocal and living overtone harmony. But also here are strange and even truly weird vocal adapted experiments; sounding like new music and a few times like somewhat odd ideas surely when at first only just one person starts to adapt them. A great bonus inclusion to the original LP recording. Also the Rome recording is not just another performance but has again different, interesting perhaps even somewhat coincidentally achieved harmonies by improvisation. It builds up from more obviously harmonizing tones to unexpected changes through deeper concentration into other, broader sound perspectives.
The CD reissue is done with great respect and has a booklet with info and pictures and there’s another art booklet with colour prints of mantra-like forms in nature and in ethnical art, printed on half transparent paper, a beautiful work on its own. Highly recommended !
Another great composer who made very thoughtful compositions with overtones is the Italian composer Giacinto Scelsi, who worked also with one-note compositions with overtones (Quattro Pezzi per Orchestra). Scelsi in 1978 wrote a letter to Laneri after having read an article on the group, with some extra appreciating thoughts on the project, which is included in the booklet together with some remaks from Marius Schneider (writer of "Meaning of Music", "Cosmic Music",..) and Terry Riley (in C, and his minimalist music based upon one note).