Tantras of Gyütö" (TIB,1973,1975)***** (traditional)
1. Those who hear the Gyütö monks for the first time won't believe what they hear. The harmonically rich multi-octave spanning overtone singing with deep bass foundation in the prayer choir chants, with flashy free form vibrant percussion, with the far reaching penetrating bass of the trumpets, combined with the higher pitched shrilling attention awakening trumpets, gives a very wide spectrum of sound vibrations. This music fits in its 3 dimensional scope where it has been created, from the highest mountains of the earth, giving this more dimensional feeling with vibrations penetrating down to the rest of the world's landscape, having even in its underlying vibration something of the vibrations of the whale. The slow moving Tantric songs can not but move you when you have at least some natural openness for sound or sound content. Such a CD with only excerpts of a 6-7 hours ritual can sadly only give an impression, or a part of its real content, which I personally would have preferred to have heard in a complete score of the ritual, for it is not "music" as a coincidental expression of some contents, but has a harmonic fundamental expression of a deeper lying spiritual creation with creative elements that inhabit experiences that go beyond a fast reacting daily mind's set of perceptions. Because of a conserved deep fundament in its expression, it cannot but have similar musical qualities, with harmonious interactive powers in its expression. I once had a strange lucid dream where I heard the sounds that surrounded my body. It was a kind of flashy electricity with thunder like vibrations, in sound very similar as what these monks are expressing.
- Because of the musically sounding capacities of the sounds that the monks made, samples were used more often, very cheaply, in other music without ever realizing what the expressions in the content were all about. Now only recently the Gyütö Monks have themselves done a few recordings with other musicians. In the US they once did and recorded a tour, where in one track Kitaro and Philip Glass participated.
2. This Australian release might have been the first recording of the Buddhists with some other, Australian guests musicians, like Sarah Hopkins, cello, harmonic whirlies & overtone singing, Anne Norman, shakuhachi, and Chris Neville, didgeridoo & overtone singing. The choice of Sarah Hopkins seems appropriate, for she made an interesting recording before with her invented instrument, the whirlies, an instrument with beautiful ethereal sounding overtones. Secondly, the shakuhashi, a Japanese bamboo flute, is also, more often used for meditative creations. Thirdly the didgeridoo has capacities of creating complex harmonic zooming vibrations in lower registers, making mediation possible from a more earthly / bodily bound nature. The cello is closer to the human voice and has the capacities to bind many lower and higher tones, and bring the whole to a human level. I don't know how many theoretical foundations have been thought over, before starting with this release. It seems like the monks didn't (want to or didn't feel themselves founded enough to) participate like with a vividly working mastership that vibrates with a life-creative transformative interaction, but kept themselves at a distance with their own kind of harmonies with only a feeling of being peacefully present, on a level of a sleepy snoozing foundation, so that their contribution is mostly sample-like. Also the other musicians, possibly in respect for the monks background, all participate in a mostly accompanying way. Sarah Hopkins could have used her own mastership of a creative force, but also stays very basic in wiring it all together. The shakuhashi creates a very thin aired sound. This instrument's improvisation is creative on its own (based upon a traditional style), still without really interacting with the colours of other overtone instruments and voices. In this way it remains an independently contributing element, only saved in the harmonic whole by the additional cello and didgeridoo. The music works in a relaxed way and achieves its goal to bring harmony and peace. Spiritually seeing what all instruments could have in its core of sounds, harmonies and interacting melodic fundaments, this foundation still is extremely basic, personally I find this basis too simple/poor. Not many people would care for this, because the result within this specific fundament was successful and highly enjoyable. But also musically and historically IMHO this might not give this release much importance. On the other hand if we see the global result of interaction, to the successful warmth of its performance, it brings this basic fundament of peace and understanding to a level of vivid strength of openness and a compassiononate beauty.
3. Sarah Hopkins release was reviewed first at the experimental music instruments review page:
New World MusicSarah Hopkins : Reclaiming the Spirit (AUS,2001)*****
With this release, Sarah Hopkins is able to reclaim the spirit arriving from within the world of sound.
I've listened to this album a lot of times, and found it a very rewarding experience.
After the first seconds of (the less essential mix of) environmental sounds* we hear a very inspired, captivating combination of overtone singing with interactive cello, alternated with whirly instruments, some aluminium instruments (like chimes and tuning forks) with rich harmonic resonances, choir humming and mantra like "yeyeha" singing, -reminding me off the chromatic choir arrangements by Florian Fricke, like on his Popol Vuh release "Sei still wisse ich bin..", some bowl like resonating cathedral bell chime bars (on "invocation"), taking various overtone effects into the development of the composition, -most clear on "invocation", where a way of composing with overtones, the Italian composer Scelsi comes in mind-. It gives a feeling of a very rich spirituality.
"First Light" is composed in a different category, and has a more earthly vibration, it's more melodically developed with the same produced tones. It seemed to be co-composed by Peter Carolan, with a slightly more monotonous accompanying droning, high pitched soprano vocals, improvising cello, less derived from an inner sound vibration, but acceptable as a more new age outro, still fitting perfectly, be it in a more superficial, moody way. The titletrack after that starts off with sea sounds again, this time fitting nicely, with a fine sea animals imitating cello, changing into building up a drone that enriches itself through the improvisation in variations of harmonic resonances, developing into a fine classical composition with chamber orchestra, with some remaining overtone droning vibrations. A part of this composition has a minimal repetition. While the first 6 tracks are more pure music with a highly original and creative renewing composition not bound to melody-lines thinking, the closer of the CD is a fine compromise between classical composition and developed earlier ideas. All of the earliest compositions work like self-developing variations of evolving harmonic vibrations. Before one knows it, the three first tracks, together for almost 20 minutes, have passed in time. But also the rest flows fluently thereafter.
I can really understand how it came that Sarah Hopkins received to the permission to work with Tibetan monks in a later release (see review at the Tibetan Fusion review page). It's a shame that the Tibetan release itself was not given more time to come to a similar creativity in sound composition, as original, or as much coming from the force within sound itself, as can be noticed with this release. It is a recommended release, where especially the self-motored development sounds with overtones, vivid throughout most compositions, are an essential listen.
*These few seconds of sounds are mostly fitting only metaphorically, as an associated entrance to new sounds with higher resonances, maybe to remind us of similarities with more natural sounds. Where the following composition goes deeper into the real sound itself, this particular recorded chosen intro is less appropriate than it could be. But, since the last more contemporary music track starts with other, more natural sounds as well, for me, it makes much more sense when starting to listen to the music with the last track as first composition, a composition with a more human composition form, even when the second listen then repeats this theme, this way everything can still be concluded as a perfect listen.
With that release I can really understand how it came that Sarah Hopkins received to the permission to work with the Tibetan monks. It's only a shame that the Tibetan release itself was not given more time to come to a similar creativity in sound composition, as original, or as much coming from the force within sound itself, as can be noticed with this earlier release. "Reclaiming the Spirit" is a recommended release, where especially the self-motored development sounds with overtones, vivid throughout most compositions, are an essential listen.
After having listened more often to 'Sounds of Global Harmony' I realise the work is still from an honest, simple but very benificial nature. Compared to the overdose of releases with a discrepansy of so called spiritual music with materialistic goals -to make money with it- from New Age directions, this project with this Australian group with monks still is one of an honest nature, and in a modest way it is powerful and perfect for what it is meant for.